font color=blue>We've Sung This Tune Before! (Updated 8/20/08)
Water Shortage Warnings. Cracked, parched ground. Sizzling 100 degree days. These are things that probably conjure up images of August 2007. It was the hottest month EVER for Bowling Green, with an average temperature (lows and highs of all 31 days combined) of 85 degrees! Accopanying this excessive heat were many days without rainfall, with only a little over 1" recorded for the month. As you may recall, the extreme drought condtions persisted well into the fall before the pattern changed and more rains came. By late October, things were wet, which is the way it remained in this part of the world well into the spring. As it turns out, that was a good thing.
The summer of '08 has been, well, topsy-turvy in the rainfall department. June was our third driest of all time, but we made up for it in July, with final tallies about 2" above normal for the month in most areas. But since July 26th, we have not seen daily rainfall exceed 1", and now it seems an all too familiar problem is resurfacing: Dry ground!! Lawns are turning brown, and crops and gardens are getting thirsty. We do need rain.
Technically speaking, our area is NOT in drought at this time. The reason is that wet period from last fall to early spring that was mentioned earlier. We had emassed a surplus that carried us through the first few months of the year, and even though we dipped into the "minus" column in June, we rallied to near annual normals by the end of July. As I post this, we are almost 2 1/2" in the hole, largely thanks to the paltry .13" we've received so far this month. It could be worse...MUCH worse: At this point last year, our rainfall deficit stood at a whopping 13.55"! That's why the overall situation now is not as dire as in '07. That being said, a little tropical moisture (hint, hint for you, Fay!) would come in handy right now...
Quick, Someone Build an Ark! (Updated 7/25/08)
July is almost behind us, and that means we're heading toward the peak of the season for activity in the tropical Atlantic. August and September are historically the busiest months for hurricanes in Atlantic basin. Although we don't have to deal with the direct impacts from these ocean storms here in the Ohio Valley, we sometimes have to deal with the "ghosts" of these systems as they move inland from the Gulf of Mexico and unload their plentiful rains. Some of the "ghosts" that have impacted Kentucky over the years include Audrey (1957), Camille (1969), Bob (1979), Isidore and Lili (2002), and Dennis and Katrina (2005). In some cases, these systems did our area a favor by getting us out of mild to moderate droughts. For example, Katrina dumped nearly 4" of rain on Bowling Green in late August '05, bringing adequate moisture back to starved crops and vegetation. Sometimes, though, the timing of these systems may not be exactly favorable.
In 1995, Hurricane Erin--which made two landfalls as a Category 1 storm in Florida--worked its way through the Deep South and into the mid-Mississippi Valley on August 3rd and 4th. Erin's remnants then took a right turn into the Ohio Valley as the first weekend of the month commenced. In Indianapolis, this spelled T-R-O-U-B-L-E for NASCAR as it prepared for the second annual running of the Brickyard 400. Rain had already wiped out second round qualifying for the event, and on the morning of Saturday, August 5, Erin's "ghost" brought a steady downpour that lasted through the morning and well into the afternoon over Indiana's state capitol. But NASCAR officials kept the jet dryers humming on the track, crossing their fingers for any break in the rains. Around mid-afternoon, they finally got it, and though it was not seen on national TV due to prior commitments, the race took the green flag. The late Dale Earnhardt emerged victorious over Rusty Wallace as dusk loomed over the historic 2.5 mile speedway.
On that same day, Erin crashed the party at another event right up I-70 in another state's capitol (a friend of mine now living in Evansville, Indiana remembers this one very well!). Buckeye Lake, Ohio just outside of Columbus was playing host to Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band for a third time. Late on the morning of the 5th, Flash Flood Watches and Warnings were posted for much of central Ohio, as heavy rain from Erin overspread the area. The rain persisted nonstop all the way through showtime that night, turning the parking lot and the concert venue's lawn area into a quagmire (think "Woodstock" here). Despite the adverse conditions, the band played on, much to the delight of the thousands of "parrotheads" in attendance! By the way, the Columbus International Airport recorded 3.17", while Buckeye Lake itself picked up 2.72".
Bowling Green also picked up some rain from Erin (a little over an inch), but that's a drop in the bucket compared to the moisture Frederic brought us on September 13, 1979. Frederic had made landfall near Mobile, Alabama the night before as a powerful Category 3 hurricane. The storm then curved northward as it moved inland, cruising right over South-Central KY on the eve of the 13th. That day was one of the wettest in Bowling Green's history, with 6.02" measured. Nashville, Tennessee picked up 6.6", also a one day September record for them. As the core of Frederic's remnants moved over the area, winds gusted to 46mph in Bowling Green and to 45 mph in Nashville during the 9pm hour. What a nasty day!!
So, will we be affected by tropical remnants at any point this year? We shall see!
Up on the Tightrope (Updated 6/11/08)
I'm Up on the Tightwire
One Side's Ice and One is Fire
It's a Circus Game With You and Me
Those are lines from Leon Russell's timeless tune "Tightrope", a "Gene Birk Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame" hit from the early 1970's. Just like a trapeze artist "putting on a show for you to see" as Russell so eloquently puts it, Nature has been putting on its own show for millions of years now. And, as the song also implies, we often look into the past like rubber-neck giraffes, trying to learn what may have spurred changes in global patterns and temperatures. And though we may not have too many hard facts or figures that go back beyond 150 years, we know the climate has always been evolving.
Recently, I've had a couple of viewer inquiries about weather patterns in the late 1800s and how they compare to those of the early 2000s. One e-mail posed this question: "Why does it seem like so many record lows for Bowling Green were set in the late 19th century?" Now I know the terms "global warming" or "climate change" may come to mind, but let's not get too hasty here! This much is fact, though: A catastrophic volcanic eruption cooled the earth significantly in the mid to late 1880s, and may very well have altered weather patterns in the lower Ohio Valley during this period.
The island volcano of Krakatoa, located halfway across the world from the United States in Indonesia, set off a series of violent explosions when it blew its top on August 27, 1883. Large amounts of ash and aerosols reached high into the earth's stratosphere, causing "blue" and "green" sunshine by day and unsual red hues at sunrise and sunset. Not only did these phenomena that lasted several years after the massive eruption, the veil of volcanic dust and particulate matter in the upper atmosphere served as a solar filter which lowered global temperatures as much as 1.2 degrees Celsius! That cooling period lasted about five years after the event.
Knowing that, I think it's no coincidence that some of Bowling Green's chilliest temperatures were recorded in that five year stretch from 1883 to 1888. Our city's all-time record minimum temperature of -26 happened in January 1886 (it's believed by some that record came in the wake of a major blizzard, though official snowfall records for our area don't go back that far).
On the subject of cooling, did you know this past spring ranked in the upper third in terms of coolest on record for the lower 48 states? It's true! Check out these stats from NOAA:
U.S. has 36th Coolest Spring on Record
The March-May spring season was the 36th coolest on record for the contiguous United States, according to an analysis by the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. Separately, May ended as the 34th coolest May for the contiguous United States, based on records dating back to 1895.
The average spring temperature of 51.4 degrees F was 0.5 degree F below the 20th Century average. The average May temperature of 60.3 degrees F was 0.7 degree F below the 20th Century mean, based on preliminary data.
U.S. Temperature Highlights
• The March-May temperatures were cooler than average from the Northwest and extending throughout the central Plains and upper Mississippi Valley. In all, 19 states had a cooler-than-average spring.
• Twenty-five states were cooler than average for May. Pennsylvania was much cooler than average and ranked eighth coolest.
• Florida, Texas, and Washington were warmer than average for May.
U.S. Precipitation Highlights
• For the spring, Missouri had its fourth wettest, Arkansas its sixth wettest, Indiana and Iowa their eighth wettest and Illinois its 10th wettest. For May, Arizona, Maryland, and Nebraska were much wetter than average, with Nebraska ranking fourth wettest and Maryland fifth wettest on record.
• California had its driest spring on record, while Nevada and Utah had their 10th and 11th driest on record. For May, two states were much drier than average -- New Hampshire had its ninth driest May on record and Florida its 10th driest.
• Rainfall improved drought conditions across parts of the northern Rockies, but moderate-to-extreme drought continued throughout the Great Plains, Southeast, and Southwest. About 18 percent of the U.S. was classified in moderate-to-extreme drought at the end of May compared to 23 percent a month ago, based on the U.S. Drought Monitor.
• Several strong weather systems dumped heavy rains across parts of the central Plains, Ohio Valley, and mid-Atlantic states. In some areas, this pattern has continued for the last six months, with Missouri and Illinois having the wettest December-May on record. By the end of May, 24 percent of the contiguous U.S. was classified in moderate-to-extreme “wet spell” conditions compared to 16 percent six months ago, based on the Palmer Index.
The earth's balancing act continues, it's own "circus game" for you and me.
Don't Get Lost in the Numbers! (Updated 5/24/08)
The summer season is upon us, and so to is hurricane season for our neighbors to the south and east along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Just as no two winters here in the U.S. are exactly alike, no two hurricane seasons are exactly alike. Perhaps 2006 served as a reminder of that fact. We had just emerged from a record year in the Atlantic Basin in '05...one that brought us the likes of Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. It was the season that spawned so many storms that the names spilled over into another alphabet (the Greek one), and the season spilled over into another year. It's easy to see why so many forecasters went gangbusters on the forecast for the '06 season...almost certain of an above average number of tropical storms and hurricanes (By the way, an "average" season for the Atlantic Basin includes 11 named storms, 6 of which being hurricanes (winds 74mph or greater) and two of those reaching major hurricane (winds 111mph+) status). Instead, only one minimal hurricane (Ernesto) and two tropical storms (Alberto and Beryl) graced the U.S. mainland with their presence in the summer of '06.
Forecasts for a busy season in 2007 DID verify, it's just that America lucked out. Out of 17 named storms last year, only one hurricane--a minimal one in Humberto making landfall on 9/13--directly impacted the country. Again, coastal residents no doubt breathed a collective sigh of relief when the season concluded. But all it takes is ONE storm to make a season memorable! Remember Hurricane Andrew in August 1992 and all the carnage it brought to South Florida? Andrew was the only hurricane to strike the U.S. in 1992...a season that produced only six other named storms. It's proof that it's NOT about the numbers when it comes to preseason forecasts for hurricanes, it's about impact!
So what about '08? Well, the common belief remains that we're still in an "active" cycle, one that's existed since the mid 1990's. This phase we're in may continue for another decade or so...we shall see. In the meantime, take a gander at what the folks at NOAA have to say regarding the upcoming season:
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center today announced that projected climate conditions point to a near normal or above normal hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin this year. The prediction was issued at a news conference called to urge residents in vulnerable areas to be fully prepared for the onset of hurricane season, which begins June 1.
“Living in a coastal state means having a plan for each and every hurricane season. Review or complete emergency plans now - before a storm threatens,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Planning and preparation is the key to storm survival and recovery.”
The Climate Prediction Center outlook calls for considerable activity with a 65 percent probability of an above normal season and a 25 percent probability of a near normal season. This means there is a 90 percent chance of a near or above normal season.
The climate patterns expected during this year’s hurricane season have in past seasons produced a wide range of activity and have been associated with both near-normal and above-normal seasons. For 2008, the outlook indicates a 60 to 70 percent chance of 12 to 16 named storms, including 6 to 9 hurricanes and 2 to 5 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale).
An average season has 11 named storms, including six hurricanes for which two reach major status.
“The outlook is a general guide to the overall seasonal hurricane activity,” Lautenbacher said. “It does not predict whether, where or when any of these storms may hit land. That is the job of the National Hurricane Center after a storm forms.”
Bill Read, director of NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, said, “Our forecasters are ready to track any tropical cyclone, from a depression to a hurricane, which forms in the Atlantic Basin. We urge coastal residents to have a hurricane plan in place before the season begins and NHC will continue to provide the best possible forecast to the public.”
When a storm forms in the tropics – and even before that stage – NOAA forecasters at the Miami-based National Hurricane Center are in continuous monitoring mode – employing a dense network of satellites, land- and ocean-based sensors and aircraft reconnaissance missions operated by NOAA and its partners. This array of data supplies the information for complex computer modeling and human expertise that serves the basis for the hurricane center’s track and intensity forecasts that extend out five days in advance.
The science behind the outlook is rooted in the analysis and prediction of current and future global climate patterns as compared to previous seasons with similar conditions.
“The main factors influencing this year’s seasonal outlook are the continuing multi-decadal signal (the combination of ocean and atmospheric conditions that have spawned increased hurricane activity since 1995), and the anticipated lingering effects of La Niña,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “One of the expected oceanic conditions is a continuation since 1995 of warmer-than-normal temperatures in the eastern tropical Atlantic.”
“Americans in hurricane-prone states must get serious and be prepared. Government – even with the federal, tribal, state and local governments working perfectly in sync – is not the entire answer. Everyone is part of the emergency management process," said FEMA Administrator R. David Paulison. "We must continue to develop a culture of preparedness in America in which every American takes personal responsibility for his or her own emergency preparedness.”
NOAA’s Atlantic hurricane season outlook will be updated on August 7, just prior to what is historically the peak period for hurricane activity.
That's NOAA's take. Now for that of Dr. Gray and company from Colorado State University (their most recent forecast was released in April):
Dr. William Gray and his colleague Dr. Phil Klotzbach from Colorado State University have revised their outlook for this year's hurricane season. Here are the updated numbers with the December outlook noted in parentheses:
Tropical Storms: 15 (13)
Hurricanes: 8 (7)
Major Hurricanes: 4 (3)
The CSU hurricane outlook was a bust the last two years. And in the newly released 32-page report, Gray and Klotzbach offer this caveat, "we have yet to demonstrate real-time forecast skill for our early April forecasts that have been issued for the last 13 years. Everyone should realize that it is impossible to precisely predict this season's hurricane activity in early April."
So why publish the forecast? "People are curious," they say.
The next update from Gray and Klotzbach will be issued Tuesday, June 3, 2008.
Pussywillows, Cattails, Dogwoods, Blackberries, and Linen Britches (Updated 4/28/08)
Pussywillows cattails soft winds and roses
Rainpools in the woodland water to my knees
Shivering quivering the warm breath of spring
Pussywillows cattails soft winds and roses
Ahh...nothing like the sounds of the season. Those sweet, refreshing words came from singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot (of "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" fame). Some years, the transition from the grey, lifeless winter to the lush, green spring can be rather seemless for us in South-Central Kentucky. But in other years, there can be, well, some unwelcome surprises as the seasons change.
One of my former college professors and Kentucky's former state climatologist Glen Conner is very learned on our state's "folklore seasons". He says there are three late season "winters" we often must endure as a right of passage to the warmer seasons. Those include "dogwood winter", "blackberry winter", and "linen britches" or "linsey-woolsey britches winter". "Dogwood winter" refers to a cold snap that usually occurs in mid-April for the Ohio Valley while dogwood trees are in bloom. It's also known as "locust winter" by some folks upstate where dogwoods aren't as common. Either way, you could argue that we're past this one, as the cold snap that happened on the weekend of April 12th-13th probably fell into this category. You could also make the case that last year's hard freeze on Easter weekend could be considered an abnormally harsh "dogwood winter".
"Blackberry Winter" is the second of the late-season snaps that usually happens around the first of May when blackberries are in bloom. When I think of "blackberry winter", I often think of Derby weekend of May 1989. The place to be to watch "Sunday Silence" win the "Run for the Roses" that year was inside with the heaters on throughout the Commonwealth! The high temperature on 5/6/89 in Bowling Green: A mere 51 degrees. Even more notable was what fell from the sky over northern parts of Kentucky that day: Snow!! A dusting (0.2" to be exact) was measured at the Cincinnati-Northern KY International Airport. Ugh!!!
Last but not least, we have what's generally the least severe but perhaps least-liked of the bunch: "Linsey-Woolsey Britches Winter". In old days, this referred to the final time in the spring season where folks would be forced to pull back out the homespun linen wools. This season usually happens in late May. May 22, 2002 might qualify as a good example of a "modern day" Linsey-Woolsey moment, as the low temperature in Bowling Green as 35 degrees that day with some light frost reported.
One more note: The latest spring freeze for Bowling Green happened on May 4, 1976, when the official low was 32 degrees. You may not don the linen or wools, but storing the jacket away at the end of April can sometimes be premature in this part of the world!
Voicing rejoicing the wine cups do bring
Pussywillows cattails soft winds and roses
We've Come a Long Way, Baby! (Updated 4/2/08)
April 3rd marks the 34th anniversary of the "Super Outbreak", the worst tornado event to ever strike the United States. For those that witnessed the destruction that afternoon and evening, the memories are still fresh as ever.
Last year, I recalled the stories of a couple of eastern Warren County families whose lives were turned upside down on that wicked Wednesday afternoon. This time, though, I thought I'd focus more on the changes in technology since April 3, 1974. for more.
A Reversal, or Just an Abberation? (Updated 3/21/08)
Welcome to Spring! Thanks for checking back in.
Well, the stats are in for this past winter, and though it wasn't that cold or very snowy in this part of the world, the overall trend of warming winters came to an end with this one. CLICK HERE for a USA Today article discussing La Nina's role in temperatures and precip across the country this past season.
As forecasters we must ask ourselves, "Was this past season just a relative island in a continuing sea of warmth, or is it a sign of things to come?" I will tell you the current long-lasting La Nina harkens back to the early 70s...years that featured mainly mild winters and VERY active spring seasons for South-Central Kentucky. Once the La Nina episode faded in 1976, the bottom fell out in each of the three winters that followed. If history repeats itself, the 2010's could be MUCH colder than the current decade.
For now, enjoy Spring, and though the pattern may very well stay active, let's hope for some quiet time in which we can "stop and smell the roses"!
The Weekend Snow and "Convective Banding" (Updated 3/9/08)
Easter may be two weeks away, but I could already hear the shouts of "Alleluiah!" upon waking up and glancing out the windows Saturday morning. Yes, a good snow FINALLY materialized for South-Central KY, and though it wasn't what I would consider to be a "blockbuster" for Bowling Green (5" was the city's official measurement), it was our biggest single-storm snowfall since March 19-20, 1996! Whether you like the white stuff or not, you had to agree we were long overdue. For some of our western and northern counties, however, I'd say it was a blockbuster. Totals of 8" of Elkton, 10" in Leitchfield and 11" at Rough River Lake classify as "epic" for Kentucky in this forecaster's book!!
I've been living here for almost a decade now and have been employed as a weather anchor at WBKO for the last seven. NEVER did I think I'd have to wait this long for such a decent snow! It always seemed as if we had an invisible snow sheild covering Warren County...almost like the shady, obligatory man in a Scooby Doo cartoon who stands outside the Haunted House and says "You can't enter here...go away!" Last week, I was reminiscing with Chris Allen about one particular snow event that affected the area in mid-January 2003. We had a pretty good feeling that significant snowfall was possible several days prior, and as I recall the night before, all signs pointed to amounts near 6" for Bowling Green. Our official forecast was for 3-6", thinking in this case the lower amounts would be to the north with higher amounts from Bowling Green southward to the Tennessee line. But alas, the low pressure system producing the snow took a jog about 60 miles south, and voila, Nashville gets paralyzed with 8" of snow....much of that coming between the morning drive and midday. Then there was the huge winter storm of December 2004 that delivered a white Christmas to just about everyone northwest of Bowling Green. But from here and points south and east, it was mainly a rain and sleet event. Curses! Foiled again! At long last, though, our time came on the morning of the 48th anniversary of Bowling Green's biggest snow ironically enough (the infamous two footer than began on March 8th and finished on March 9, 1960).
While the snow amounts forecast seemed to verify for most portions of the WBKO viewing area, a few folks were, I guess you might say, "disappointed" in what they received. It seems most of the disappointment was centered from about Cave City southwestward through eastern and southern Warren County and into Simpson County. These areas, for lack of a better way to describe it, seemed to be in "la-la land" Saturday morning when others to the east and west were picking up on heavier snows for longer periods. Why was that? Well, a lot of times with major snowstorms we'll experience what's known in the meteorological world as "convective banding" or "meso-banding". I saw this setting up on First Alert Doppler Radar Friday night as the event was unfolding. We mentioned areas of the darkest blue representing spots where snowfall rates of 1"+ per hour were possible. The heaviest snow bands - as we anticipated coming into the event - set up shop primarily over the western/northwestern portions of our coverage area (Todd and Logan Counties northward through Morgantown and Hartford and northeastward to Leitchfield, Clarkson, and Elizabethtown). Some of these convective bands literally sat over these areas for several hours with little movement...hence the large amounts. Lightning and thunder were also experienced...something VERY RARE for this area and the first time I'd witnessed it since 1994! Warren County for the most part was just east of the best convective banding, even though the western one-half of the county did receive a general 4-6". Amounts trailed off quite a bit just to the south and east, though, with Franklin only picking up 2". To the south, a similar story unfolded in Nashville, where most forecasters called for 3-6" though the airport (on the city's east end) only received 0.8". In these cases, the best banding simply did not establish itself for long. It's for that reason that - along with temperatures sometimes borderline both aloft and at the surface - forecasting these events AND getting the amounts to verify can be SO tricky! Often times computer models will give us a pretty good idea of where the heaviest snow may be, but they can only "broadbrush" the picture, thus making it difficult for any forecaster to nail down exact amounts for any one location.
As a general rule, it's our policy in the First Alert Storm Center that, when forecasting a potential snow event, we don't immerse ourselves in the numbers for possible accumulation until about 24 hours prior to the event. That's because a.) Big snows are rare in this part of the world, and b.) So much can change with the data and guidance prior to the storm's arrival, i.e. the track, timing, and temperatures involved. As mentioned before, we've seen those changes unfold so many times leading up to the fact! All in all, though, I'm pleased to say our forecast verified for most, and judging by the smiles on the faces of the young and the young-at-heart who made the trek to "Hospital Hill" in Bowling Green Saturday morning, I think most "snow birds" were fed quite well!
Thanks for reading,
All in the Family (Updated 2/29/08)
I discussed La Nina and its correlation with active severe weather seasons in the last post. But that's not the only thing La Nina usually means for Kentucky. There seems to be a relationship between La Nina patterns and late season snows for our area. Take for example a couple of years: 1974 (again) and 1989.
Records for Bowling Green show most of March 1974 to be mild. Not to mention, it followed the old adage to a tee: It came in like a lamb and out like a lion (a prelude to the Super Outbreak occured with tornadoes in the region on March 29th). Nestled in between, however, just a few days after the official start of spring, came a bitter blast of arctic air that brought record late-season cold to parts of the Midwest. This blast rolled into town and gave South-Central KY high temperatures in the 30s on the 24th! Along with that came a dose of light snow, affecting many northern parts of the WBKO viewing area. Nolin Lake Reservoir, Hodgenville, and Madisonville all reported 1" of snow that day. Mammoth Cave Park also recorded a nice dusting (0.3") from this likely- unwelcomed late season cold shot.
Fifteen years later, after another winter that had been primarily mild and snowless, fans of the white stuff had something to cheer about, at least for one day. With air only marginally cold enough but moisture plentiful, a swath of 2-6" of snow fell over southern parts of KY and northern/eastern parts of TN on February 27, 1989. Check out these totals: Scottsville: 6", Hopkinsville: 5.5", Jamestown: 3", Lake Cumberland: 3.4", and Bowling Green: 2". Proof that with winter, Yogi Berra was right: It ain't over til it's over!
Funny how this year--a La Nina season--seems to be in the family with other strong La Ninas before it. Often times, the abnormally cooler waters in the central Pacific--which have a huge impact on the middle of winter--tend to lessen their impact on North America late in the going. When that happens, those who wish to get out and plant flowers or till gardens can have another thing coming. Keep in mind we've had accumulating snowfall as late as April 18th!
Enjoy the warmer weekend, but remember: Spring hasn't really "sprung" yet!
Not the Same but Similar (Updated 2/18/08)
La Nina and severe weather in the Ohio Valley...there seems to be a bond between the two entities. Much like the bond between Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, or Daryl Hall and John Oates, or maybe even Ed McMahon and Johnny Carson. You get the idea. Just for review, La Nina is the abnormal cooling of the tropical Pacific waters that usually spells warm and wet weather for the Blue Grass state. But when that warm, moist air clashes with colder, drier air to the north, stronger-than-normal storm systems for mid-winter standards tend to be the result. The past tells us a La Nina pattern can be a recipe for trouble in this part of the world. Sure enough, history repeated itself on February 5th. The "Super Tuesday Outbreak" was one for the ages!
Now I won't rehash all the stats about that deadly night in this post (our links about that are on the weather page just below the forecast discussion), but I want to discuss how similar our current pattern is to another La Nina season: 1973-1974. Hmmm...1974. Something BIG happened that year, did it not? No, I'm not thinking about Richard Nixon and "Watergate" and "I am not a crook" and "Gerald Ford will be sworn in as president" and all that jazz. Sure, that was turbulent enough, but I'm thinking about the "Super Outbreak" of tornadoes that took place across the eastern U.S. from the afternoon of April 3rd into the early morning hours of April 4th. Those twisters were spawned from a deepening area of low pressure that moved from the Rocky Mountains into the Upper Midwest. CLICK HERE for official archived weather maps from Wednesday, April 3, 1974...select day 4 from the drop down list on the upper right. That weathermaker was part and parcel of the La Nina pattern the nation was locked into at the time. Interestingly, the winter leading up to that disastrous event was mainly warm and mainly wet (sound familiar?). Bowling Green saw no measurable snowfall in the winter of '73-'74 until February 8th, when 1" fell. It's worth noting that the 1" or less of snow in our area last week turned out to be the first measurable snowfall of the season for many. Now I don't know about you, but I cannot help but seeing some irony there.
The early '70s featured some very active weather in this region. If we turn the clocks back another three years we find what I refer to as the "Other Outbreak' on April 27, 1971, when multiple violent twisters resulted in numerous fatalities and damages in the millions across South-Central KY. This, too, happened in a "La Nina" year. CLICK HERE for weather maps from 4/27/71...this one is day 3 from the drop down list. In fact, La Nina conditions were consistent over the central Pacific waters from 1970 all the way into 1976.
Let's go back a bit further to 1965. Lo and behold, there was another memorable tornado episode known as the "Palm Sunday Outbreak". This one didn't have quite the impact on our immediate area as the those in '71 and '74, but it still ranks as one of the deadliest in U.S. history. The hardest hits states were Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan. La Nina conditions were present that year, and this outbreak followed an unusually mild winter season for much of the East. CLICK HERE to look at that day's weather maps.
Fast-forward to January 22, 1999. The severe season that year really began in January, with Clarksville, TN witnessing a severe tornado. Other parts of the South were ravaged, too, including Arkansas. CLICK HERE to check out that day's weather maps.That winter season can be considered a close cousin to the one we're currently in, at least in my book. It gave us a roller-coaster ride in the temperature department, with cold spells short-lived and some record warmth in the 70s during January and February. Later that spring, the strongest tornado on record slammed into Moore, OK on May 3rd, with estimated winds of 318 mph!
Granted, this may not be the most in-depth study of La Nina's impact on severe weather in Kentucky. But I think it's undeniable that strong episodes of that climatic phenomenon play a role in producing more potent storm systems over the central and eastern United States that tend to be severe weather-producers for our region. I say this not to scare you, but just to make you realize that, if history is any indication, our weather pattern is likely to remain active well into spring. BE PREPARED AT ALL TIMES!!!
It's Not (That) Unusual (Updated 1/10/08)
In the wake of a couple of episodes of strong to severe thunderstorms in the region this week, I thought I'd should take a moment to stress that IT'S NOT THAT UNUSUAL to have severe weather in January! In fact, we've had many infamous tornado outbreaks strike the Commonwealth in the dead of winter and NOT JUST IN RECENT YEARS!! Take a look at these examples:
January 18th-19th, 1929: Several twisters touched down across central Kentucky, two of which were fatal. The strongest of the bunch hit portions of Hardin and Larue Counties on the 18th, downing at home and four barns near Sonora. One person was killed and five were injured. Another tornado tore a path from Summersville to Campbellsville (Green to Taylor Cos.), killing two and injuring five along the way. Other tornadoes in this outbreak affected the Louisville area.
January 21, 1959: A killer tornado ripped through Grayson County, downing four houses in Neafus, and destroying 10 buildings on one farm. Three people were dead and five were injured in the wake of this storm.
January 24, 1964: No fatalities in this outbreak, but several twisters touched down in Grayson and Hardin Counties late that evening.
January 24, 1997: A little more recently (and if you're a Glasgow native you may recall this one), two tornadoes wreaked havoc on portions of Barren and Metcalfe Counties. The strongest touched down on the south side of Glasgow and did significant damage along KY 90.
January 2, 2006: Here's one I remember very well! Several twisters spun up early on this afternoon. Two of those found the ground in Adair County near Columbia, where one took out a mobile home and unroofed a house. Over in Lincoln County to the east, two people were injured by another tornado late that afternoon.
Now we wait and see if what happened in Park City Thursday is added to the above list.
**All the above data courtesy of the Louisville National Weather Service.**
The Top Weather Events of '07 (Updated 12/28/07)
Should old weather happenings be forgot and never brought to mind? Ha! In my world, the answer is an emphatic NO!! They should be remembered--and ranked--for these were the events that helped characterize 2007. From now on when I think about '07, one word will come to mind: EXTREME. It truly was that, and not to mention unusual, in so many ways. Here are the nominees for the past year's most significant and memorable weather events (in no particular order):
Bowling Green's Hottest Month Ever (August)
Lack of Severe Weather in May (only one report in viewing area)
Oct. 18th Severe Weather Outbreak
Easter Weekend Snow/Hard Freeze
Our 3rd Warmest March of All-Time
First 90s in October Since 1963
106 Degrees in August--Hottest Temp in Bowling Green Since July 1980
April 3rd Severe Weather Outbreak
KY's first tornado to be ranked on NOAA's new enhanced Fujita Scale (Todd Co. on March 1st)
1-3" of Snow on Third Weekend of February
Drought-busting record Oct. Rains
June 23rd Severe Outbreak (8 reports of hail/damaging winds in WBKO viewing area)
June 8th Severe Outbreak (7 reports of hail/damaging winds in WBKO viewing area)
I asked my colleagues, Chris Allen and Matt Stephens, to assist me in picking the year's top weather events. Now before I get into who placed what event in what number, I should stress that there is a good bit of subjectivity involved in the individual ratings. Think of two NFL referees making a call on a big play...one thinking "touchdown" while the other contends the player may have been "out of bounds". I don't know if that analogy applies best to this situation, but I think you get the idea :) We all did, however, base our rankings on what events we thought to be the most significant in terms of overall impact on our region. Any noteworthy all-time records also factored in. The year 2007 had plenty to choose from in both departments!
--Lack of Severe Weather in May
--Oct. 18th Severe Outbreak
--April 3rd Severe Outbreak
--Todd Co. Tornado (Mar. 1st)
CHRIS' TOP 10:
10. 1-3" of Snow 3rd Weekend of February
9. June 8th Severe Outbreak
8. June 23rd Severe Outbreak
7. Easter Weekend Snow/Hard Freeze
6. Drought-Busting/Record October Rains
5. 3rd Warmest March of All-Time
4. 1st 90s in October Since 1963
3. 106 Degrees in August--Hottest Day Since July 17, 1980
2. Record Hottest Month for Bowling Green (August)
1. THE DROUGHT
--BG's Hottest Month Ever (Honorable mention, Matt? What are you smokin', dude?!! Just kidding...)
--Lack of Severe Weather in May
--106 Degrees in August (Again Matt, what are you smokin'?!! Oh wait, I forgot, each man is entitled to his own opinion here.)
--Todd Co. Tornado of March 1st
MATT'S TOP 10:
10. June 8th Severe
9. June 23rd Severe
8. Easter Weekend Snow/Hard Freeze
7. 1-3" of Snow 3rd Weekend of February
6. April 3rd Severe
5. Oct. 18th Severe
4. 3rd Warmest March
3. First 90s in Oct Since '63
2. Drought-Busting/Record Oct. Rains
1. THE DROUGHT
And now for my take...
--Lack of Severe Weather in May
--Apr. 3rd Severe Outbreak
--Todd Co. Tornado on Mar. 1st
--June 8th Severe Outbreak
SHANE'S TOP 10:
10. June 23rd Severe Outbreak
9. 1-3" of Snow 3rd Weekend of February
8. Oct. 18th Severe
7. 3rd Warmest March All-Time
6. First 90s in October
5. Easter Weekend Hard Freeze/Snow
4. 106 Degrees in August--Hottest Day in 27 years
3. Drought-Busting Rains in October
2. Bowling Green's Hottest Month Ever (August)
And at numero uno (surprise, surprise)...
So there you have it. We may not always agree on everything, but the choice for number one this year was a no-brainer. The drought was our worst in over 50 years...one that impacted so many in the Mid-South region, and continues to do so in the Deep South. I'm certain most folks in the agricultural community (except maybe a handful in aquaculture) hope we don't see the likes of the "Drought of '07" for a very long time to come!
Extreme drought, extreme heat, and some severe weather mixed in to boot. Bizzare year? At times, yes. Extreme year? YOU BETCHA!!!
All the best to you and yours in '08!
Not the Same Old Lang Syne (Updated 12/19/07)
You may not know it, but the music world lost a great--and I believe highly underrated--singer/songwriter this past Sunday. His name...Dan Fogelberg. He emerged from the trenches of street performances as a struggling folk artist in the early 70s to become a bonafide pop star later that decade. Between 1980 and 1984, you would have been hard-pressed to turn the radio onto a soft rock or adult contemporary station and not hear a Dan Fogelberg tune. Hits such as "Longer", "Heart Hotels", "Hard to Say", and several others received frequent play. But Fogelberg has several songs that stick out in my mind for various reasons.
And it's Run for the Roses
As Fast as You Can
Your Fate is Delivered
Your Moments at Hand...
The 1982 hit "Run for the Roses" is one of those that gives me chills when I hear it. Naturally, radio often revives this hit in May when the time rolls around for the Kentucky Derby. The opening verse strikes a chord with me: Born in the valley and raised in the trees of Western Kentucky... For a boy born and raised in the Blue Grass state, it's a tune that upon listening to it--much like "My Old Kentucky Home"--gives me a real sense of pride that I grew up here in the Commonwealth. And then there's this hit:
The Leader of the Band is Tired
And His Eyes Are Growing Old
But His Blood Runs Through My Instrument
And His Song is in My Soul...
When it comes to family and influences, I often refer to my late grandfather as the "leader of the band". He was a survivor of World War I, and lived just long enough to tell some dramatic tales of fighting for the red, white, and blue in the Argonne Forest of northern France in 1918. To paraphrase Fogelberg, my life has been a poor attempt to imitate him, yet he remains my hero.
But there's one more of Dan's most well known songs--perhaps THE most well known--that often receives airplay this time of year. "Same Old Lang Syne" tells the story of Fogelberg bumping into his old girlfriend for the first time in a long time at a supermarket during the holidays. He even goes so far as to describe the outside conditions: "The snow was falling Christmas Eve... He sings of how they grab some holiday "spirits" and proceed to catch up on each other's lives since they last met...discussing all the changes they had gone through...all the good times and the bad. But the last verses of this classic are perhaps the most poignant, when the two part company and head their separate ways once again:
Just for a Moment I Was Back at School
And Felt That Old Familiar Pain
And as I Turned to Make My Way Back Home
The Snow Turned into Rain...
I always loved the way he brought the story full circle at the end with the "snow" mention. But it's the melancholy conclusion to this song--complete with the bluesy saxophone instrumental as it fades out--that makes it memorable. "Same Old Lang Syne" has become one of those timeless tunes.
Our "rain" may have turned to "snow" on Sunday morning, but in a sense, it was the other way around. Fogelberg fought the good fight against prostate cancer for 3 1/2 years before succombing earlier this week. He may be gone, but not forgotten. But it's not the "same old lang syne".
This will be my last post until after the 25th, so I wish you and yours a "Merry Christmas"! Thanks for reading.
The Quake That Wasn't (Updated 12/10/07)
A few weeks back, I was conducting a First Alert Weather Class for some 4th graders at Dishman-McGinnis Elementary in Bowling Green. We were in the midst of a little Q & A with the students when one inquisitive youngster posed a question I don't hear often. She asked, "Is it possible for us to have a big earthquake in Kentucky and is there any way of knowing when it might happen?" Now, I'm no geologist, but in our line of work as weather forecasters, it's often assumed by kids and adults alike that seismology and meteorology go hand in hand. So naturally, I'll be thrown this "curve ball" on occasion, and every time it comes flying in my direction, I think of one man and one place. The man: The late scientist Dr. Iben Browning. The place: New Madrid, MO. Both were the center of attention in 1990. The hullabaloo that surrounded both aforementioned entities actually began one year earlier, though.
Let me take you back to September 1989. That's when Dr. Browning, a New Mexico native learned in the ways of bioengineering (though NOT a seismologist) made a bold prediction. He stated there was a 50-50 chance an earthquake of 8.0 magnitude or greater would occur on the New Madrid fault near the Mississippi River on or about December 3, 1990. His reasoning? A certain amount of gravitational pull between the earth's crust and the moon along with other planets. This forecast got the media's attention, but the science world balked. Many claimed there was no real basis to back up Browning's theory. Others said he was merely "crying wolf" and that TV, radio, and print journalists were only contributing in over-hyping an event that wasn't even a sure bet. One thing I learned even before I got into this business: NEVER underestimate the power of the media! Perhaps the best example of that power was displayed in the reactions of state leaders, area businesses, and school systems leading up to 12/3/90, the date in which Browning feared "The Big One" would rattle the region.
When the supposed big day loomed, I was a sophomore at Owensboro Catholic High School, and when I think back to that fall, I can't help but snicker about it. I chuckle about hearing I would be out of school on December 2nd and 3rd. I laugh a bit when I recall my high school principal--just a week before the predicted quake--giving us the low-down over the intercom system on what happened at New Madrid, MO in 1811 and 1812. That's when not one, not two, but THREE MAJOR earthquakes of at least 7.9 magnitude or greater on the Richter Scale shook almost the entire eastern United States. My classmates and I hear him tell of the horror of those events...the Mississippi River running backwards, church bells ringing in Boston, parts of Ontario feeling the quakes, downtown New Madrid dropping 10 feet, etc, etc. He seemed genuinely concerned and obviously hoped we would be, too. Of course, many of us (myself included) merely saw those two days off as "play days", perhaps not realizing how serious a strong quake could be if it took place. I also smile a bit when I think about engineers who warned of the perils of being stuck on a bridge during the time of the shaking. At the time, I was a typical high schooler who thought, "Yeah, right. That will happen when pigs fly. What does that Browning guy know?"
Well, December 2, 1990 rolled around quickly, and guess what? I was glued to the television! I just couldn't take my eyes off CNN, where video of what had evolved into a media circus was commonplace throughout the day. Downtown New Madrid was a sea of news cars and satellite trucks. I'm sure that little SE Missouri town never believed it would receive so much attention! I recall a couple of seismologists being interviewed about a small tremor that took place near Cape Girardeau a few months prior, one barely felt by the area's residents but drummed up to no end by the media. Some of the city's residents took the threat seriously, scrapping up earthquake supply kits and battening down the hatches. Others went about things more nonchalantly, sort of taking a "what have we got to lose" attitude. In fact, one local restaurant was promoting an "earthquake burger" with a split down the middle of the hamburger bun! The day went by with no seismic activity along the fault. Now it's the 3rd. We wait, and wait, and wait, and wait. Nothing. No shaking, no quaking. Now, time for the backlash.
"Browning's Boo-boo" and "Iben Wrong" were popular statements by area residents chiding Dr. Browning for his "wrong" prediction. I must admit I hopped on the "Let's Make Fun of Him" bandwagon after those days went by. It was as if he practically made a Joe Namath-esque guarantee that it would happen but couldn't back it up. Sadly, Dr. Browning passed away in July 1991, a little over half a year after the quake that wasn't. At least the late scientist was given a tip-of-the-hat by new Madrid mayor Dick Phillips, who said at the time, "We owe him a debt of gratitude...In this particular case, thank God, his prediction didn't come to pass, but it made us realize that we had never made any kind of preparations for a natural disaster. We owe him for that."
Seventeen years have passed since the hubbub surrounding New Madrid took place. And yet, we still wait, and wait, and wait. For we know that the day will come when the sleeping giant that is the New Madrid fault wakes up again. It's had a way of warning us on a few occasions since those great quakes of the early 1800s (1895 and 1968 are examples), but those pale in comparison to the documented event of 1811 and 1812. As I told the yound girl at Dishman-McGinnis, what is certain: It WILL happen again. What is not certain: The exact date and time.
Are we ready?
WINTER WEATHER OUTLOOK 2007-2008 (Updated 11/29/07)
Allright kiddos, it's that time again! Meteorological winter starts Saturday, December 1st, so I find it appropriate to unleash my outlook for the upcoming '07-'08 season one day before the magic date. It is amazing to think that as we enter into the season, we've gone from 90 degree temperatures in the second week of October to seeing readings struggle just to reach 40 degrees on Black Friday. That kind of turnaround may be giving some of you snow lovers hope that this could be the year we turn the tables with lots of wintry fun. After all, it's been five seasons since our last one with above average snowfall in Bowling Green. Unfortunately for fans of "real" winter, it's my belief that streak gets extended to six when this season's all said and done. I'll discuss the reasons why later. First, however, I think we should review what's "normal" for winters in Bowling Green before we dive into the meat and potatoes of the "pattern players" for this season and how they factor into my outlook. I must be true to the title of this blog and share some "history", amongst other items. Bear with me, as the "weather speak" will get technical at times!
NORMALS These numbers are based on 1971-2000 Climatological data specific to the Bowling Green Warren County Regional Airport. Technically winter lasts until around March 21st per the calendar, but I'll deal only with the months considered as "meteorological winter" here:
DECEMBER: Avg. Temp (Highs/Lows Combined): 38.3
Avg. Snowfall: 0.9"
JANUARY: Avg. Temp: 34.2
Avg. Snowfall: 4.1"
FEBRUARY: Avg. Temp: 38.6
Avg. Snowfall: 4.0"
It's been said that to understand the future we must learn from the past. That's why it's important to keep those stats in mind relative to the forecast!
1. LA NINA: This looks to be a MAJOR player in determining the character of South-Central Kentucky's winter this year. "La Nina" refers to abnormal cooling of the equatorial Pacific Ocean waters...something that began this past spring. It is the exact opposite of "El Nino", which happens when those same waters warm. The winter of 2006-'07 was an "El Nino" winter, one that started warm, then turned cold in late January and remained so through much of February. The one missing ingredient when the cold came back was moisture. We only picked up 4.7" of snow last season...NOT because there was no cold air to work with but because the upper pattern remained inactive since the predominant jet flow was northwesterly during the second half of the season (that dryness laid the groundwork for the extreme drought conditions over the summer, I might add). That flow usually gives us moisture-starved clipper systems that are not our biggest snowmakers. The subtropical jet is often a non-factor for us during "El Nino" seasons, and last year was certainly no exception. Not so with "La Nina"!
When La Nina conditions are present, the subtropical jet stream typically runs from near Hawaii northeastward into the West Coast of the mainland U.S. in/near northern California. It then normally runs east-northeastward into the north-central Plains, the Upper Midwest, and into New England. This upper air flow often promotes a warm, moist southwesterly flow for the Ohio and Tennesee Valley region. It's for thie reason that "La Nina" winters are often warm and wet for South-Central KY. Click here for a case in point from 1988-89:CLICK HERE. Notice the bullseye of green over Kentucky during the period January-March. It was also, for the most part, a mild winter with very little snow for Bowling Green. That's because the primary jet flow stayed well to our north, often keeping us on the warm side of storm systems. Yeah, I know...not what you want to hear if you're a fan of the white stuff.
Moderate to strong "La Nina" winters for North America include: 1973-74, 1988-89, 1998-99. A weak "La Nina" developed during the winter of 2005-06, just two seasons ago. What's interesting is that all aforementioned seasons yielded snowfall well below average for Bowling Green, along with extended spells of unseasonable warmth. You may recall that much of winter '05-'06 was unusually warm after a cold start in December (we even had severe weather Jan. 2nd), though the cold and some snow made a comeback in February when the La Nina pattern broke down. Official forecasts are keeping this particular La Nina event solid throughout the winter, though, and that should have a lot of bearing on our upcoming season. If there's one thing I can say with a great deal of confidence here: La Nina will ensure us of a MUCH more active pattern than that of last winter.
2. OSCILLATIONS/TELECONNECTIONS: The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and the Pacific-North American Oscillation have important roles in shaping up U.S. winters. The NAO is made up of two semi-permanent systems...one an upper low pressure over Greenland/Iceland and another an upper high pressure over the Azores in the East Atlantic. When these systems are planted in their usual spots, a positive NAO results. However, if the high over the Azores weakens and drifts eastward toward Africa and the low over Iceland backtracks westward toward the Canadian maritimes, a negative NAO develops. In a negative NAO, the jet over North America often takes a nosedive over the East Coast. That setup, while not necessarily the SOLE reason for extended cold in South-Central KY, certainly plays an important role. So does the Pacific-North American Oscillation (PNA), which refers to the occasional shifting of the Aleutian Low over the northern Pacific and an upper high over the West-Central Pacific. When the Aleutian Low is strong and positioned SW of the panhandle of Alaska, a positive PNA develops. This situation typically results in high pressure ridging and unseasonably warm air in the West, with colder air as the jet may carve a trof over the East. Combine a negative NAO with a positive PNA and you have the recipe for a big chill in this part of the country. However, getting that kind of setup for a prolonged period is easier said than done, and all signs point to that combination being a rare one this winter.
3. OTHER FACTORS Besides teleconnections and La Nina, there are other players on the team that will dictate how this season shakes out for us. Those include climatology (touched on earlier) as well as snow cover off to our north. Canada is quite cold as I type this, and there is a fair amount of the fluffy stuff covering the ground over the northern Rockies and Plains in late November. That's key, as snow cover tends to breed more cold air to the north (something we call the refridgeration effect). Northwest winds blowing over that COULD aid in getting our season off to a nippy start.
Now that we've made it through the reasoning, let's get into the outlook! Please remember that this forecast is my own and is NOT representative of official First Alert Storm Team forecasts posted here on-line or delivered on-air on WBKO ABC or FOX. Here goes...
DECEMBER: I envision this as likely being the coldest month of the winter season for our area. We may actually have more opportunities for seeing significant wintry weather this month than later in the season when it's more typical. The coldest part of December will likely be the first half, with warmer temperatures after the 15th. That, of course, is not music to the ears of those of you wishing for a White Christmas, as it has been 14 years since our last one in Bowling Green. Never say never, though. Avg. Temp (Highs/Lows Combined): 39.5 (One degree above climatological avg.), Snowfall: 2.3" (1.4" Above Average).
JANUARY: La Nina will really flex its muscle during the middle of this year, and around here, well...that's a snowman's worst nightmare. I harken back to January 1999, January 2002, and January 2006 when I think of how this one should pan out. In those aforementioned months, there was at least one day in which high temperatures topped out at or above 70 degrees in Bowling Green...ridiculous for mid-winter. Now that's not to say we won't have our cold shots - we always do in the dead of winter - but with a southwest wind flow and infrequent visits from the arctic jet, I see us having occasions where short sleeves and shorts may actually be acceptable attire. Though the pattern stays active - I see this month being soggy - the lack of arctic air will probably keep Bowling Green on the "rainy" side of most systems. By the same token, the high number of cloudy, rainy days may be the only thing that keeps this from being one of the top 5 warmest Januarys of all time for the area. One or two of system MAY produce significant snow or ice to parts of the WBKO viewing area in overrunning scenarios where cold air is still present. A footnote about January '02: I recall daffodils blooming on the campus of Western Kentucky University BEFORE February 1st!! I wouldn't be shocked if that happens again. Avg. Temp: 40 (Almost 6 degrees above average), Snowfall: 1.5" (2.6" Below Normal).
FEBRUARY: This has the POSSIBILITY of being the wild card of the next three months IF and ONLY IF there's a slight weakening of the La Nina late in the season. In Feb. 2006, we made up for the lack of snow in December and January by picking up accumulating snows on consecutive weekends. In fact, every weekend that February except the last one had Bowling Green picking up on significant snowfall. The breakdown of that season's weak La Nina was a big reason for this. No two winters are exactly alike, though, and La Nina is stronger this time out. Like January, though, I foresee a lot of warm spells with a couple of cold shots thrown in for good measure. Don't be shocked if this is one of those situations where winter makes a late season comeback toward the waning days of February into March...a month not included in my outlook. It's a leap year coming up, so we'll get that extra day at the end of February. Avg. Temp: 43.2 (4.6 degrees above normal), Snowfall 2.8".
One last note: I think we'll have a late-season surprise come mid-March, one that could dump around an inch of snow in Bowling Green to round out the season. Northern counties in our viewing area (a la Grayson, Hardin, Breckenridge, Ohio) will likely be on the colder side of more storms, so I'm thinking seasonal snowfall on the order of 10-12" is possible there. Closer to the Tennesee line, amounts will be much lower...on the order of 5" or less.
Winter 2007-'08 should go down as a mild but wet one for South-Central KY. Cold shots may come from time to time, but unseasonably warm weather will be frequent during the upcoming season. The snowiest month may wind up being December before the true face of this season shows itself. Snowfall should remain below normal this season for all of South-Central KY, though that's NOT to say we won't have our chances given the more active jet. The period from around Christmas to Valentine's Day looks warmer than average overall.
Thanks for reading, and let the fun begin!
November Snows (Updated 11/19/07)
Hi there! Sorry it's been so long!
Sometimes when Old Man Winter knocks at our door prior to December, we may not want to answer. Nevertheless, he can come barreling through that door like Dennis the Menace does with his next-door neighbor Mr. Wilson. We're never immune to early visits from winter. With that in mind, I thought this would be a good time to take a look back at some of the most infamous early season snows to impact our area. The amounts of some of these--not to mention how early in the season they took place--may surprise you.
November 2, 1966: What has to rank as one the most shocking weather events ever in this part of the world unfolded as wet snow piled up in FEET over parts of central KY. Bowling Green recorded 8" of snow from this freak storm, but locales such as Mammoth Cave and Glasgow received anywhere from 11-13" of the white stuff! Just imagine all that heavy, gloppy snow caked onto the trees as the leaves were turning!
November 23, 1950: This snowfall was part and parcel of a severe cold blast that gripped much of the eastern United States for several days in late November 1950. A deep, slow-moving low pressure center that meandered over the Ohio Valley and northern Appalachians dumped about 2" of snow in Bowling Green, but the bigger story was the bitter cold air that followed, with subzero lows common in the Commonwealth two days following the snowstorm. The only other time Bowling Green saw temps dip below zero in November was way back in 1880. Brrr!!!
November 27, 1977: You have to go back 30 years to find the last time much of the area saw significant snow in November (this excludes the "Halloween" snow of 10/30/93). This system struck the region on Thanksgiving weekend, just in time for the Christmas shopping season. Snows of 3-5" were common over much of the WBKO viewing area...the heaviest November snow since '66 for a lot of folks. Few may have realized it at the time, but this snow served as a hint of what was to come for the winter of '77-'78: Frequent snows and PLENTY of cold air!
Allright, now that you've had the appetizer, the main course arrives on this blog next week, and that's my outlook for Winter 2007-08. I'll say this much for now: This season may not be our coldest ever, but if you like snow, don't hang your head. We'll discuss that more right here after the holiday weekend. Have an enjoyable--and safe--Thanksgiving!
Careful What You Wish For! (Updated 10/24/07)
Chances are you're familiar with the old phrase "be careful what you wish for, you just might get it". Never did that saying ring more true than it did for Kentucky residents during late 1936 and early 1937, particularly when it came to the weather. Perhaps your parents or grandparents--heck, maybe even YOU--recall the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s. America was in the midst of the Great Depression, and these were years filled with despair for the state's agricultural community. Some of the lowest corn, soybean, and alfalfa yields ever reported in the Commonwealth's history came in the '30s. In fact, alfalfa yields this year were reportedly the state's lowest since 1936. Hmmm...1936. interesting, especially since that year ranks near the top of the hottest and driest summers in Kentucky (just as 2007).
As was the case here just a few weeks ago, folks were praying for rain during the scorching summer of '36 and were no doubt appreciative of every drop that fell. Finally, by the end of 1936, the drought-busting moisture arrived. Trouble is, it kept coming, and coming...and coming.
After a November in 1936 that was drier than average for Bowling Green, the pattern 180 began in December, when 6.51" was recorded. Then came the terrible floods of January 1937. Rainfall totals by the end of that month exceeded 15" in many locales across Kentucky, with Earlington (Hopkins Co) establishing the state's all-time record for the wettest January (22.97"). These record rains resulted in record flooding on the Ohio and Green Rivers, as well as many of their tributaries. Many cities were inundated with water for several weeks, many homes were either swept away or left uninhabitable, and many persons drowned in the high waters. A couple of people who recall that dramatic flip from "too dry" to "too wet" have told me the floods may have had more long-lasting damage for many areas than the drought that preceded it.
Now, I say this not to scare you, but it does make me wonder if history might repeat itself. After all, we're coming out of a summer that ranks right up there with 1936 in terms of the intensity of heat and drought. Not to mention, La Nina conditions (where waters in the central Pacific Ocean are colder than normal) are developing, and the thinking amongst many in the meteorological community is that warmer and wetter than average conditions will prevail in the winter ahead for the Ohio and Tennessee Valley region. If that materializes, than at the very least, one may draw parallels to the '36-'37 pattern change. One hopes, however, the turnaround is not so extreme.
Thanks for stopping by,
Just for Kicks (Updated 9/21/07)
We're entering the fall season with a monkey still riding our backs: Drought! As I post this, Bowling Green has recorded a measly 22.26" of rain on the year. If the year ended now, it would be the driest EVER here!! The all time driest is 1930, with a mere 26.33" of rain. With three whole months left in 2007, it seems likely 1930's record will stand, but in this year of extremes one can never be too sure!
Turning to the subject of late season heat, if you think it's unusual to be dealing with 90 degree temps in the latter half of September, you're exactly right. After combing through data each year from 1971 thru 2006, I found that the average date of the last 90+ temp for Bowling Green was September 9th. It's interesting to note that in some years, we were completely finished with 90 degree heat by the middle of August! For example, our last 90+ day in 1982 came VERY early (August 4th). On the flip side of the coin, there were other years in which summer just didn't want to let go. The years 1971, 1986, and 1998 are prime examples (last 90+ day: September 30th).
One more note before I run: We have not seen 90 degree weather spill over into October since 1963.
Thanks for checking in!
It's the Time of the Season (Updated 9/5/07)
Okay, this may seem impossible to believe since the days are still quite hot, but fall is just around the corner. That, of course, means winter is not too far behind, which, in turn, means it's time for Kentucky's famous forecasters to come out of their shells. No, I'm not talking about my fellow First Alert Storm Team members! I'm talking about folks like Mr. Dick Frymire, the veteran prognosticater from Breckinridge County now in his 42nd year of predicting weather conditions for the upcoming winter season. Just for review (we mentioned his forecast technique in a post sometime late last year), Frymire has a secret formula in which he studies tree leaves, bark, and other interior readings of his Japanese maple tree. He combines that with past winter weather data to come up with exact dates for snow events and bitter cold temperatures many months ahead. When it comes to the Commonwealth, Frymire is to winter as Colonel Sanders is to chicken.
Allright, enough with the old S.A.T. analogies. Here's Frymire's forecast for 2007-08:
Oct. 7th: Light frost
Oct. 18th: Killing frost
Nov. 11th: Flurries
Nov. 21st: 1st tracking snow
Nov. 28th: tracking snow
Dec. 9th: 1" snow
Dec. 15th: 1" snow
Dec. 21st: 1" snow
Dec. 27th: 1" snow
Jan. 3rd: Very cold thru Feb. 9
Jan. 13th: 3" snow
Jan. 17th: Coldest Day, 10 below zero
Jan. 23rd: 4" snow
Jan. 28th: 2" snow
Feb. 3rd: 1" snow
Feb. 11th: 1" snow
Feb. 18th: sleet and hazardous driving
Feb. 24th: 4" snow
Feb. 28th: first robin (8am CT)
Mar. 7th: flurries
Mar. 16th: 1" snow
Mar. 27th: WIll be 67 degrees
Apr. 8th: Last snow (flurries)
Frymire adds that if a heavy fog comes in before nightfall and lingers until 11am on any of the first 10 days of January, winter will be worse than anticipated. At any rate, the above forecast would be a dream season for Bowling Green, that is if you enjoy snow. Those events Frymire suggests total up to 20" of the white stuff, which would be double our seasonal average. His forecast, by the way, takes in everything from Pikeville to Paducah, as well as most of Southern Indiana.
Another nugget of note: The Farmers' Almanac predicts a colder-than-normal winter with above normal precip for Kentucky. We shall see...
Crown 'Em Kings! (Updated 8/17/07)
It's already safe to call the Heat Wave of '07 "historic", as we've shattered two record highs and working on our hottest August EVER as I post this. But this hot spell is spurring some good questions, like this one from John in Summer Shade (Metcalfe Co.):
What is the record for the number of 90 and 100 degree days in a row?
Well John, this may surprise you (it surprised me), but the summer of 1921, while not featuring a lot of extreme heat, gave Bowling Green 57 straight days of 90 degree readings! The streak began on June 10th and ended mercifully on August 6th, when the high was a mere 88 degrees.
As for consecutive 100 degree days, you must go WAAAY back to 1901 (a drought year mentioned in my last post--no coincidence that drought years often feature some oppressively hot temperatures!). The period July 19th through July 28th was quite possibly the most unbearable stretch of weather ever for South-Central KY: That's 8 straight days of 100+ temps! Just think, central air was only a dream back then. Crown that one "King of the Scorchers", and crown 1921 "King of the Prolonged Heat"! '
Thanks for reading!
C'mon Tropics! Work Your Magic! (Updated 8/15/07)
Allright, the latter half of August lies ahead, and unless you're living in Mammoth Cave, you know we have a HUGE hole to dig out of with that yearly rainfall deficit. Occasionally we might get some temporary relief in the form of scattered thunderstorms...either the air mass variety (a la the popcorn late afternoon development) or whatever a typically weak cold front wrings out this time of year. But of course, more is needed on a broader scale to provide any real relief...the kind of relief a system tropical in origin can deliver. They have worked some magic through the years.
The year 1901 had similarities to the present: Plenty dry and plenty hot! Cases in point: July 1901 featured scorching high temperatures of 108 degrees in Bowling Green on the 10th and again on the 21st. As for rain, only a paltry 0.17" fell the entire month! In fact, no rain fell here at all from June 27th through July 18th. But the pattern changed in August, and the remnants of an unnamed hurricane (they weren't named until the early 1950s) sent abundant mositure back to South-Central KY. Each day from 8/13/01 to 8/19/01 shows meaurable rain fell in Bowling Green. Our monthly rain total that August: 7.34", which is impressive considering only 11.85" fell from January 1st through June 6th of that year!
Tropical storms and hurricanes have also been factors in other summers, whether we really needed their moisture or not. In 2002, moderate drought conditions had developed over South-Central KY when the remnants of two cyclones rolled through. The first was Isidore in late September, closely followed by Lili in early October. Isidore was the more prolific rainmaker of the bunch, but rainfall from both was enough to virtually wipe out the yearly deficit to that point. Similar conditions existed in 2005 before the ghost of Katrina barreled through in the waning days of August. Rainfall accumulated 3-11" over the region, effectively ending a drought that had been tetering on severe.
Some other tropical systems that left their calling card on the Blue Grass include: Audrey (June 1957), Betsy (Sept 1965), Camille (Aug 1969), Becky (July 1970), Bob (July 1979), Frederic (Sept 1979), Erin (Aug 1995), Opal (Oct 1995), Frances (Sept 2004--Mainly Eastern KY), Ivan (Sept 2004--Mainly Eastern KY), Arlene (June 2005), and Dennis (July 2005). Of these, Frederic brought the most rain to Bowling Green (6" on 9/13/79).
Funny how tropical cyclones can act as deamons AND friends. For more info on past tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin, CLICK HERE.
You Have Questions, I Got Answers! (Updated 8/9/07)
Our ongoing heat wave has sparked some very good questions from you, our viewers:
Q: We were wondering how the winter was following the last summer we had 100 degree weather. The Farmer's Almanac says we will have a bad winter this year. Is it true?--Anonymous
A: Well, I don't wish to open a can of worms in this space about the Farmer's Almanac (my father-in-law swears by it!). However, I typically give the book a glance before the start of the year just for kicks and grins. Stats don't lie, though, and that's what I looked at when it came to tackling this question. As it turns out, there really is no golden rule that says the winter after an extremely hot summer will always be "harsh". For example, the last time we experienced 100 degree weather prior to this year was in the summer of 1999, but the winter that followed was pretty wimpy. Our biggest snowfall during the entire '99'-'00 winter season was a mere 1.3" in late January. On the other side of the coin, though, is the winter of 1983-84, one that came on the heels of a summer that gave us two seperate streaks of 100+ temps in July and again in August. Lots of area residents recall the sub-zero readings that Christmas, which was followed by frequent snows and more bitter cold in January and Febraury 1984. Moral of the story: There really seems to be no clear-cut correlation between summer heat and bitter cold (or lack thereof) the following winter.
Q: Could you tell me how long it has been since we have seen this many consecutive days of temperatures in the 90s (11 straight days of 90+ readings)?--Sent by H. Dexter
A: I was a bit surprised I didn't have to dig back in the archives too far to find the last time we had such a long heat wave here. It was actually just two summers ago in which we endured 17 straight days of 90+ temps for aftenroon highs. That stretch started July 31, 2005 and ended August 16, 2005. In all likelihood, our current stretch of 90+ weather will surpass the one for a couple of seasons back.
Thanks for writing in folks!
Dubious Streaks (Updated 8/7/07)
Well, we did it. For the first time since September 1999, the mercury cracked the century mark in Bowling Green Tuesday afternoon. If you're like most people, you probably wish that eight-year streak did NOT have to end. However, with the strong possibility of more triple-digit heat on tap this week, I thought it would be interesting to look back in time and see when dubiously long stretches of intense heat found occured in our part of the world during August:
1930 As if July wasn't hot enough in this "Dust Bowl" year, August made South-Central KY sweat it out again. The period 8/2 through 8/8 saw a LOT of red on the thermometer, with 100+ temps recorded each day (7 straight days). Bowling Green's all-time hottest August temperature happened on the last day of that streak (110 degrees).
1918 Mention 1918, and the brutal winter that began the year may come to some minds. However, the summer that followed gave our area some scorching readings, especially during August. Had it not been for a 98 degree high on 8/7, Bowling Green would have experienced 8 straight days of 100+ degree weather from 8/4 through 8/11 this month. Just think: Central air was just a dream back then!
1936 We're back into the Dust Bowl years again, and the arrid environment over the Commonwealth produced many record high temperatures in 1936 that still stand today. Two stretches of 100+ readings occured during this month here...the first from 8/16 through 8/21 (6 straight days) and 8/25 through 8/28 (4 straight days). A footnote to this heat wave: No rain fell in Bowling Green from August 11th through September 1st that year.
It appears a weak cold front slipping into the area Friday may be just enough to put the clamps on a ridiculously long 100+ streak like those mentioned above. That being said, if we make it three straight 100 degree days this week, it would be the first time that's happened in almost a quarter century (August 20th-22nd, 1983).
Take it easy this week!
Shake and Bake (Updated 7/16/07)
From searing heat to the earth moving under our shoes, July 1980 had some memorable moments. Some in our area can recall two days pretty well: July 16th and July 27th.
The heat wave of 1980 was one of the worst in the memories of many South-Central KY natives since the Dust Bowl years. Consider this: Bowling Green hasn't experienced a 100 degree day in eight years now. But in July 1980, hitting the century mark was a common occurance. In fact, it happened EIGHT TIMES that month in Bowling Green! The heat reached its climax in mid-month, with the 15th and 16th being two of the hottest days ever for our area. Record highs still stand in Bowling Green for those two days (105 on the 15th, 107 on the 16th). That 107 was the city's hottest temperature since 1936! Unfortunately, no records exist for heat indices from 1980, but one could surmise it was likely well into the 110s on the afternoon of the 16th. What a SCORCHER!!! That's the "bake" part of this post...now for the "shake"...
On July 27, 1980, residents of Bath County Kentucky (and many across the rest of the Commonwealth for that matter) felt the earth beneath them move a good bit. Perhaps the bark was worse than the bite, but a 5.1 quake occured on this day in Sharpsburg, KY, causing $3 million in damage. The tremor was felt in 15 states and as far north as Ontario, Canada. This was actually the strongest quake ever recorded in the Blue Grass state (the massive quakes of 1811 and 1812 had epicenters in Missouri). Thankfully, no major injuries came from this one.
Shake and bake...and we "didn't" help. It was all nature that cooked it up!
Wicked Winds (Updated 7/4/07)
Well, summer has arrived, and it's the time of year we think about lazy, hazy, crazy days of splashing in the pool and sipping on ice-cold lemonade. It's also the time of year in which we generally ease out of the heart of severe weather season. But it doesn't always happen that way. Remember the summer of 2004? It featured some of the coolest July and August temperatures we had ever experienced, but we payed a dear price for that comfortable weather. Perhaps the biggest price tags were tallied up in two of the most expansive severe weather episodes to ever strike South-Central KY. These events, occuring in July, were a mere eight days apart...quite unsettling to be certain. If there can be such a thing as twins in the world of weather, these storm events might qualify.
July 5, 2004: The day after Independence Day featured a line of gusty thunderstorms--one that evolved into what is known as a "derecho", or a long-lived windstorm traveling over several hundred miles--racing eastwqard from Missouri through southern Illinois and into western and central parts of Kentucky. This line advanced into the WBKO viewing area around 1:00 that afternoon...finally exiting our eastern counties around 5pm. In that time frame, wind gusts of over hurricane force wreaked havoc with area homes and businesses, knocking out power, stripping shingles off roofs and carports, and taking down many tall trees. In Bowling Green, a peak gust of 79mph was recorded at the weather station atop the Environmental Science and Technology Building around mid-afternoon. All told, there were 26 reports of severe weather across our viewing area that afternoon.
July 13, 2004: Just as we were cleaning up from the previous week's storms, another "derecho" event rolled in. This one, however, came from a very unusual direction: The north! Upper level winds propelled a dangerous line of storms southward from northern Illinois and Indiana into the Commonwealth. This one showed no mercy as it moved into the WBKO viewing area around sunset. In fact, at one point, the line of storms was moving south at nearly 100 mph! That rapid forward speed created destructive winds that raked through the entire area in about 90 minutes time. This time around, the wind gusts were even higher on WKU's campus (84 mph clocked), and once again, widespread damage resulted. Just as with the storms of July 5th, 26 severe reports were turned into the National Weather Service office in Louisville from this event.
They say cousins are two of a kind. I guess in the case of July 2004, that worked for derechos, too.
Slow Severe Weather Season = Summer Drought?? (Updated 5/21/07)
I guess this is sort of a sequel to my last post about drought years, but then again, maybe it's just a "spinoff". I say that because, in this instance, it's short-term or single-season drought I'm researching rather than long-term. If you've been keeping up with this spring's trends, you've probably noticed we're still rather dry (Bowling Green's yearly deficit is over 6" as I post this). Something else you may have observed is that we haven't had too many severe weather events this season. Yes, we've had a couple of very weak tornado touchdowns in the WBKO viewing area to date (Todd Co. in March and Taylor Co. in April), but nothing too serious.
To that end, I've discovered an interesting coorelation between the number of severe weather events and drought conditions (or lackthereof) in certain years here in South-Central KY. For example, there are years in which our area saw very few significant outbreaks of severe weather during spring, but wound up paying the price with serious drought conditions in the summer that followed. Conversely, I've discovered a similar relationship in certain years where our area experienced one or more major tornado outbreaks and/or numerous severe events and the following summer was wetter than average. The years I studied that included one or more major tornado outbreaks in our area were 1971, 1974, 1998, 2003. The years I studied that did not include any major spring outbreaks were 1988, 1999, and 2005.
Both 1971 and 1974 featured some of the strongest and deadliest twisters to ever strike our area (see previous posts). But neither summer that followed gave us any real problems with drought. The summer of 1971 was quite soggy, in fact, with 19.43" falling in Bowling Green from June 1st through August 31st (that's meteorological summer). The summer of '74 wasn't as wet, but it gave us near normal rainfall over the three month period, with just under 12". Fast-forward to 1998 (the year of Bowling Green's hailstorm and the deadly Metcalfe Co. tornado on the same day), and we find rainfall in this summer season to be rather generous, with 15.34" recorded. More recently, the spring of '03 gave us numerous tornado touchdowns in places like Crofton (Christian County), Munfordville (Hart County), and Rineyville (Hardin County). And the summer that followed? Yep, it was pretty damp too, with 16.36" total over the three month period.
So what about those other years I mentioned? Well, the summers of '88, '99, and '05 were infamously dry for long periods across South-Central KY. In 1988, only one weak tornado touched down in our area during the spring season (in Taylor Co. on April 6th). The summer that followed featured scorching hot and extremely dry weather. Rainfall from 6/1/88 to 8/31/88 totaled only 8.27", over 4" below average for that period. Even worse was 1999, in which the Bowling Green airport reported a meager 5.89" for the entire summer season. That spring only saw one twister touch down in the WBKO viewing area -- again a weak one in rural Logan County on May 5th. As for 2005, the only tornadic action in our immediate area took place in Todd County on May 19th. We actually wound up the following summer season with a little over 14" of rain (slightly above average), but numbers are sometimes midleading. We spent a good chunk of the summer of '05 on the brink of severe drought condtions, with only 9.2" of rain from 6/1/05 to 8/28/05. The remants of Hurricane Katrina bailed us out of the drought with nearly 5" of rain in two days late that August. I suppose you could say this is the only season I looked into that doesn't really foot the bill as far as the overall trend is concerned, but most of that summer was quite dry.
So, can we get away with saying an active spring severe season ALWAYS translates to a soggy summer with no drought? Hmmm...not so fast! One should never say "always" but never say "never", especially when you consider that 1974 had one month that was relatively dry (July '74: 1.82"). Remember last year? The first week of April 2006 saw two big-time tornado outbreaks in our area...the one on the 2nd with Hopkinsville taking it on the chin followed by the strikes in Barren County and nearby Gallatin, TN on the 7th. It didn't exactly rain cats and dogs all last summer, but we wound up with 11.93", close to the 30 year summer average. This year to date, however, it seems the pendulum is swinging the other direction. It'll be interesting to see how this translates to what we experience -- and what we may NOT experience -- in the summer that lies ahead.
They Come in 3's (Updated 5/8/07)
Someone told me the other day that the water level in the well of his Allen County farm was as low as anyone in his family had seen it since the 1930s. I thought to myself, "Hmmm...my grass is growing like crazy...surely we can't be that dry!" Then again, I was only thinking about the short term. A closer examination of recent years reveals some interesting trends!
Rainfall in Bowling Green has been running well shy of climatological norms since the start of 2005. Our yearly average (based on 1971-2000 records) is 51.63". The last time we exceeded that mark was in 2004, and we've come nowhere close to it the last two seasons. In 2005, Bowling Green wound up with a mere 41.07" at year's end, over 10" shy of average. If Hurricane Katrina had not have graced us with her presence with generous rains in the waning days of August that year, it's likely the deficit would have been close to 15"!! Though 2006 was not as dry, we still fell a few inches short of normal there, too (47.55" total, 4.08" in the hole). As you may know, we already have some catching up to do in the precip department again this year. The 2007 deficit is over 6" as of May 8th. Will this trend continue? We shall see, but if past events are any indication, it just might.
Dry years -- and wet years -- seem to come in "threes" around here, at least within the last decade. The period 2002-2004 was quite moist, with three consecutive years of above average rainfall. Despite moderate drought conditions for a part of the summer of '02, we finished out the year with 58.12" inches of precip, making it our wettest year of the new millineum. That was followed by 53.68" in 2003, and 54.71" in 2004. Before that stretch, however, was a prolonged climatological drought (much like the one we're dealing with now) that lasted -- you guessed it -- three years, from 1999-2001. Remember the summer of '99? After wrapping up 1998 with near normal rainfall of just over 50", we couldn't buy a drop of rain around here at times in '99, with a paltry 36.95" recorded for the entire year. It didn't get much better in 2000, with 38.49" the grand total. However, the next year, 2001, seemed to point toward a change in the overall trend, with 45.73" falling that year (still over 5" shy of normal, though).
Of course, these numbers are NOT representative of our entire area. Each rainfall event brings more rain to the back yards and farms of some than others. Nonetheless, we seem to be in a "dry cycle", something that may not bode well for this summer if history repeats itself. It may just take a tropical system to get us out of "debt" later this year. Let's hope it's not another Gulf coast bully like Katrina, though.
The "Other" Outbreak (Updated 4/27/07)
Thanks for checking back in!
A lot of us, whether we were around to see it or not, are familiar with the events of the "SuperOutbreak" of April 3, 1974. A lot of us are NOT familiar with an event that was almost as big, however, one that occured just three years prior. This is the one I like to call the "Other Outbreak", because it's sometimes confused with the one in '74. It's easy to see why, though, especially given the number of strong tornadoes that touched down in our area on April 27, 1971. This was not your run-of-the-mill severe weather episode: This was a DANGEROUS DAY!!
After a relatively quiet and warm afternoon on 4/27/71, powerful thunderstorms erupted over western Kentucky and southern Indiana. One crossing out of northern Hopkins County produced the evening's first twister, touching down first near Slaughters (along the Hopkins/Webster Co. line) before heading eastward through McLean County and into western Ohio County. Despite being on the ground for over 34 miles, there were no fatalities or injuries associated with this tornado. That was not to be for many other locales, however.
Bulter County took a pounding on the eve of 4/27/71. During the 7:00 hour, a strong twister (rated F3) tore through Morgantown, damaging or destroying numerous homes and trailers. This one killed one and injured two on its trek from Muhlenberg Co. into northern Warren County around Riverside. But the evening was about to go from bad to worse for areas east of I-65. Another strong tornado touched down in southern Green County, tracking right into the heart of Adair County. This one completely destroyed over 200 buildings (including homes, churches, and businesses) along its path, taking 6 lives and injuring 58 others. And the carnage didn't stop here. Another powerful twister (rated F4) tore through areas of Russell County just east of Russell Springs. This cyclone, which was as wide as a football field, created destruction similar to that experienced in Adair County, with hundreds of homes and farms destroyed or heavily damaged. Two people lost their lives in this one, with 72 others hurt.
By the end of this night, nine people in South-Central KY lost their lives, with 132 more injured.
The April '71 Outbreak may not have an official name per se, and it may have been forgotten by many in the meteorological community since it was upstaged just three spring seasons later. But it left a staggering number of people homeless, and served as a grim reminder of how wicked this time of year can be.
The First Alert Storm Team will be back out on the road in the coming Saturdays, programming Midland NOAA weather radios to help get you prepared for the remainder of the spring and summer seasons. (read "Chris' Corner" for more). With the technology we have at our disposal these days, hopefully that horrific number of casualties in the '71 event will never be repeated should we have an event the likes of it in the future.
One "Hail" of a Storm! (Updated 4/16/07)
Ask any Bowling Green resident who was here on the afternoon of April 16, 1998, and images of smashed windows and windsheilds, cars and trucks buried under feet of water, and siding ripped off buildings will probably come right to mind. The lone thunderstorm that tore across eastern Logan County all the way into Adair County during the late afternoon left a path of destruction in its wake, the kind many area residents had not experienced since April 1974 (see previous post). In a situation eeriely similar to that of '74, this storm cropped up on a day that was otherwise very warm and pleasant. Instead, like that terrible late afternoon 24 years prior, this day ended on a very chaotic note for a great many.
During the 4:00 hour of April 16th, 1998, a classic "supercell" developed over Logan County near Russellville. This cell quickly took on the characteristics of one capable of producing not only large hail (which is what many recall), but also a violent tornado. Those dangerous elements materialized as the storm tore its way through Warren County, dropping hail to softball size and dumping over 5" of rain in just an hour's time over Bowling Green. Meanwhile, just south of the city, a tornado developed, eventually tracking into Barren County, striking the Glasgow area before moving on toward Metcalfe County. Three people lost their lives in that twister. But the tornado in this case was only part and parcel of the devastation, something that's rather unusual with these storms. The hail and flooding iin Bowling Green stole the headlines, with damage of monumental proportions inflicted. Even to this day, these figures are astounding:
--More than 11,000 homes in Warren County were damaged by hail, wind, high water or all the above
--Around 10,000 cars and trucks were either damgaged or destroyed
--16 airplanes at the Bowling Green - Warren County Regional Airport were either damaged or destroyed
--Around $10 million in damage was done to the Greenwood Mall...much of it to the roof and air conditioning systems
--Over $1 million in damage was done to the Downing University Center on WKU's campus
--Roof and water damage forced Bowling Green High School to close for repairs...not to reopen until the fall
--All told, over $500 million in insured damages were blamed on this storm (2nd costilest hailstorm in U.S. history)
I must admit, it's strangely amusing to see a few dented cars (dimpled dandies, I've dubbed them) still roaming the streets of town to this day. They serve as a reminder of that monster storm almost a decade ago.
Currently, the National Weather Service office in Louisville, along with WBKO, are working to piece together a retrospective on the April '98 storm for next year (the 10-year anniversary). If you'd like to share your stories of that afternoon, please send them along to either my e-mail address above, or to email@example.com.
Until next time,
Black Wednesday Memoirs (Updated 4/6/07)
April 3, 1974 was an unforgettable day for any Kentuckian who survived one of the 26 twisters that touched down across the state that afternoon and evening. Much like November 22, 1963 (JFK's assassination) or 9/11, many folks can recall exactly where they were and what they were doing when all you-know-what broke loose.
I could go on and on with stats and damage tallies from that day, but perhaps I should let survivors tell it like it was. Below are some accounts of Warren County residents who did just that...in the wake of a violent tornado that tore through the Alvaton, Three Forks, and Claypool communties (Courtesy: The Meeks family and Bowling Green Daily News):
...Mrs. Meeks had a call from her married daughter who lives across the (Barren) River to ask her mother if it was hailing at the Meeks farm. They said their goodbyes with her daughter saying, "You'l be getting the hail soon." The couple had no other warning.
Mrs. Meeks went outside to check the weather conditions and from the distance she saw the tornado headed their way. She said, "it sounded like a freight train coming from Oakland, then it sounded like a thousand." Her husband yelled at her and their daughter (Clara Wilma) to get into the truck and they would "try to get away."
As the tornado came through, the men, Mr. Meeks and an elderly boarder...were caught in the house where they threw themselves on a bed, and where Mrs. Meeks, with her daughter in her lap, had backed into the barn which was destroyed immediately. It was all over in seconds.
The hay barn where the truck had been and the dairy barn which housed 45 cows were flattened. One cow and two calves were killed...
Poles were down with wires in the yard, trees with tin roofing hanging in their branches were uprooted and tossed into a sinkhole where the pump house had lost a roof. Farm machinery was upturned or blown to neighboring farms. Mr. Meeks said, "Luckily, my two tractors were in my father's barn and are okay."
The tornado moved over the rolling countryside causing further destruction. The Meeks, alive, found themselves together again in the yard behind the house viewing the devestation of their place...
Msr. Rollin Massey, Oakland, was away at work when the tornado struck her home. Her husband was there when their house was destroyed. He was blown from his truck over into a field and survived, only to suffer a dislocated collarbone. She said, "I first heard about my house when a man who lives four miles from us called me at work to say that he had found a picture, my family picture that sat on the mantle in the living room."
Glen Richmond, Alvaton, said he, his wife and three children were blown, each in a different direction, from their home. His wife and children were hospitalized. "I saw the feed barn up in the air, " he stated, "and I felt the floor (I was standing on) come up and I felt the planks blowing around me." Richmond also told about a family who lived in a trailer closeby. For protection they hid between mattresses on the bed. And during the tornado, the roof of the trailer blew off and he saw a mattress with two people clinging to it flying through the air.
Just a footnote: That tornado was blamed for two deaths in Alvaton.
StormFest Recap (Updated 3/13/07)
Sometime late last summer, I conjured up a quirky idea for a new event. An event that evolved around weather, of course, but something that hadn't been done before in this area. Storm spotter workshops are always worthwhile and informative, but I wondered if we could somehow combine those with presentations on how first responders in the medical field, law enforcement, and emergency management react to severe weather. I also wanted an event that was "family-oriented", with interactive games and demonstrations for the young 'uns.
Well, I'm proud to say that event came to fruition this past weekend, the first of its kind in South-Central KY. The inaugural "StormFest" was a success, and a BIG THANKS goes out to the over 200 of you that made the trip to Bowling Green High School Saturday morning! I got to shake hands with folks who made the pilgramage from cities like Auburn, Lewisburg, Munfordville and Edmonton--folks who traveled for almost an hour to get here in some cases.
We had some wonderful and informative presenters on hand, including Ben Schott from Louisville's National Weather Service office, Brian Lowry from Warren County Emergency Management, and Officer Jerry Corbitt from BGPD. A big tip of the hat goes out to these gentlemen. "Thank yous" also go out to the local chapter of the American Red Cross, the Medical Center and Bowling Green Air Evac team (the chopper landing was a cool sight!), and the CERT unit (Certified Emergency Response Team) for their participation in the event.
Finally, I'd like to recognize the efforts and cooperation of my co-workers here at WBKO. Kudos to the promotion and creative services department, and of course, to my fellow First Alert Storm Team members (Chris, Brandon, Matt and our intern, Brian). Without their help, this event would not have been possible.
Below are some pictures from StormFest. Again, for those of you that came out, THANK YOU! And for those of you who didn't...well, you missed out, but I think it's safe to say there's always next year!!
Lots of folks checked out the information booths, including one from the local Red Cross Chapter seen here
Now that's a spread fit for a king (or even Chris Allen--ha)! Thanks for the food Houchens!
The climax of the event: The weather balloon launch! That's Ben Schott of the National Weather Service doing the honors...
Ladies in gentlemen: I present to you...Broadway The Clown!!
The Big Snow of 1960 (From 3/8/07)
The winter of 1959-60 was truly one for the ages in South-Central Kentucky. It was made that way by frequent snows that kept residents of the Commonwealth digging out on numerous occasions. Snows of 6"+ occured in Bowling Green in January and again in February (heck, we haven't even seen one storm drop that much snow here in over a decade!). But did you know Bowling Green's biggest snow of all-time actually happened in March? It's true! The first two weeks of March 1960 were pretty unbelievable for this area's standards, and those who are still around to recall probably do so quite vividly!
The latter half of February 1960 was mighty chilly for Bowling Green. Records indicate high temperatures no milder than middle 40s during the last twenty days of the month, with 11" of snowfall. The cold spilled over into March, setting the stage for a couple of blockbuster winter storms to impact the region. The first of which impacted KY on Wednesday, Mar. 2nd, dumping a generous 3-6" of snow areawide. This was followed by a frightfully frigid air mass by early march standards, with sub zero lows recorded over most of KY on the mornings of March 5th and 6th. The mercury in Bonnieville plummeted to -14 on the morning of the 6th, a March record for the entire state that still stands! And there would be NO big warmups the following week.
On the following Tuesday (March 8th), another winter storm tracking into the Tennessee Valley had Bowling Green in its sights. Locals who recall what happened this week say the weather forecasters were literally all over the map with this one. Some thought it would be warm enough for mostly rain. Others downplayed it thinking just flurries would be the result. Neither of those scenarios came to pass, however, and South-Central KY residents were about to witness a multitude of flakes not seen from one storm in over 40 years.
Heavy, wet snow began to fall in Bowling Green on the eve of the 8th, lasting through the morning hours of the 9th before tapering off. When all was said and done, nearly TWO FEET of snow fell on the city (a single-storm and 24 hour record)! Other surrounding spots, including Glasgow, Mammoth Cave, Russellville, Scottsville, Gamaliel, and Summer Shade also racked up record snows, to the tune of 12-18". The one saving grace was that temperatures climbed above freezing Wednesday, resulting in some melting/compacting of the snow on the ground. Still, it was a nightmare for anyone who had to venture out, and road crews had a difficult time to say the least. With all areas under a state of emergency, only National Guard and emergency vehicles were permitted on travel. All schools, including Western KY University, cancelled classes for several days in the storm's wake. Many local businesses were also shut down. Numerous instances of damage to carports and roofs were reported, as the weight of the heavy, gloppy snow took its toll. And to think this happened in March!
Almost as amazing as the storm itself (at least to this weatherman) was how long the snow pack persisted after March 9th. The last of the snows finally melted on the 20th (that's barring any snow piles that may have been around awhile longer), with temperatures warming into the 40s on the 22nd, the 50s on the 23rd, and (haleluiah) a balmy 73 degrees on the 27th**. I'm guessing spring was anxiously anticipated by area residents at the end of this brutal, stormy winter!
Allright you morbid severe weather weenies, get ready :) We're talking tornado history for March next time!
**Data courtesy of the KY Climate Center
Shane's Shenanigans (of Late Winter)!
At long last, we can see the light at the end of winter's tunnel. In some years, that light presents itself early, when spells of cold weather are short and not a flake of snow falls after early February. But if you've lived in these parts for awhile, you know good and well it doesn't always work that way. Sometimes Mother Nature pulls some late-season shenanigans on us, with frigid temperatures and significant snow arriving at times when thoughts turn to tulips and Easter eggs. Here are some examples:
February 21st and 22nd, 1963: In a season synonymous with bitter cold, another arctic blast hit the area on the heels of the record-setting readings that chilled Kentucky in January. This one came with 1-2" of snow on the 21st, followed by record lows at or below zero throughout South-Central KY. Lows of -7 were recorded in Greenville and Beaver Dam, with -6 in Campbellsville. Bowling Green dropped to the goosegg (zero), a record low that still stands for February 22nd.
March 1, 1980: The winter of 1979-80 was similar to the season we're in now, where "real" winter held off until the very end of January and early February. Temperatures moderated across South-Central KY in late February of 80, which may have led folks to believe it was "tiptoe through the tulips" time again. But winter stormed back for one last hurrah on March 1st. This was a snowy Saturday in which the entire Commonwealth experienced significant amounts of the white stuff, to the tune of 3-9" (5" fell in Bowling Green). Very cold air in the teens and low 20s produced a fluffy snow, the product of some high liquid-to-snow ratios in this event. Covington, KY picked up 8" of snow from just .39" total precip. The general rule for liquid-to-snow is 10 inches of snow for every one inch of rain. That means Covington's liquid-to-snow ratio was just over 20 to 1 in this case. Bitter cold temperatures followed this snowstorm, with lows in the -5 to +5 degree range areawide on March 3rd.
February 25, 1993 The winter storm that struck the Commonwealth on this date will forever be known to me as "The Camp Loucon Storm". I was a senior in high school on a class retreat at Camp Loucon in Grayson County when heavy snow broke out on the morning of the 25th. The snow rapidly accumulated several inches before changing to sleet and ending as light drizzle. For much of southern Kentucky, that was the general order of events with this storm. In Bowling Green, a quick 3" of snow was followed by some sleet and then rain, as temperatures warmed above freezing. To the north of the Western KY Parkway, however, the precip stayed all snow, with over 6" of snow accumulating in portions of Hopkins, Muhlenberg, and Ohio Counties. Hardinsburg in Breckinridge County measured 8" when all was said and done.
There are other notable late-season events that took place deep into March and even April in our part of the world. Some of these came as huge surprises, and we'll cover them in later posts. Next week, I'll focus on the Big Snow of 1960.
Nifty Lil' Nuggets!
Thanks for dropping in!
I thought I'd take a journey "through the years" (can't you hear Kenny Rogers crooning that tune now!), and touch base with some past wintry episodes that impacted the eastern United States, and in some cases South-Central KY, in a big way:
February 15th & 16th, 1969: A major winter storm cutting through the deep South dumped heavy snow over the entire WBKO (then WLTV) viewing area (we were still broadcasting on Hadley Hill at the time). Snow began on a Saturday morning and did not quit until midday Sunday. When all was said and done, snow totals of 6"+ were common across the southern half of the Commonwealth, including 7" in Bowling Green, Greenville, and Campbellsville, and 6.5" in Scottsville and Rough River Lake. The same system also clobbered Atlanta with heavy glazing, the result of freezing rain that lasted for hours.
February 18-19, 1979: I mentioned February 1979 on the last post as the snowiest in history for Bowling Green (20" total). One-fourth of that total occured on President's Day weekend, in which a storm system tracked from the Gulf of Mexico northeastward along the Atlantic coast. This spread a wide swath of snow from the Ohio Valley into the Mid-Atlantic. The system's strength was underestimated by computer models, thus making it a surprise for many. Dover, DE recorded over 2 feet of snow, with Baltimore and D.C. receiving around 20". A general 3-6" fell across South-Central KY.
Incidentally, the Daytona 500 was being held on this weekend down in Florida. 1979 marked the first time the race was televised live (Richard Petty won after Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison crashed on the last lap). To this day, the heavy snow and blizzard conditions over the eastern U.S. are credited for keeping many folks indoors and glued to TV sets that Sunday. By the way, WE will have the Daytona 500 live on WBKO FOX this Sunday (shameless plug, I know!).
February 16, 1987: Though it was not as paralyzing as the "Great Ice Storm of 1951", a severe ice event crippled much of Kentucky, Virginia, and North Carolina on this day. Across South-Central KY, ice accumulations of .25" to .75" were common (some snow mixed in). Over 16,000 people in our area were without power for 3 days. This storm dumped a whopping 5" of sleet in Raleigh, NC, and up to 8" of sleet in some rural areas of the Tar Heel State.
February 15th-18th, 2003: This was a whopper of a storm that JUST MISSED Bowling Green, but blitzed a good chunk of the Ohio Valley, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast with record snow and ice amounts. Boston saw its biggest snowfall ever from this storm (27.5" to be exact). Here in Kentucky, this was mainly an ice storm, with Lexington picking up over 1" of freezing rain, and Louisville and Owensboro receiving 2-4" of sleet. Grayson County declared a state of emergency due to heavy icing coating the streets and weighing down power lines. To the south, flooding and severe weather occured in the Tennessee Valley into the Gulf states.
Allright, that's all the "gold nuggets" we can mine for this blog entry. I'll go panning for more another time!
When February Made Us Shiver
...But February Made Me Shiver
with Every Paper I'd Deliver
Bad News on the Doorstep
I Couldn't Take One More Step...(from "American Pie", by Don McLean)
Yes, February has made us shiver. Heck, it's doing it right now! The second month of the year can NEVER be underestimated for its potential in dishing out arctic cold and heavy snows in Kentucky. last year, Bowling Green experienced its snowiest February since 1986, when over 8" of the white stuff fell. Speaking of 1986, two major snow systems impacted the region within a 5 day span. One of those clocked the area with 4-6" on Feb. 10th, only to be followed by another storm of similar strength on Valentine's Day. By the way, in case you're wondering, the snowiest February of them all (at least for this area) happened in 1979, with a grand total of 20" in Bowling Green.
In terms of brutally cold air, however, one has to go back--WAAAAY back--to the late 19th century. This particular cold outbreak is one that some have heard of from previous generations, who told tales of rivers frozen solid, sleigh-riding in the deep South, and high coal prices putting a pinch on those trying to keep homes heated. The year was 1899, and to date, the second week of February that year stands as one of the coldest ever for much of the continental U.S., including the Blue Grass state.
The brunt of the wicked cold wave of February 1899 took shape when a large dome of arctic high pressure advanced southward from Siberia into Canada and the U.S. CLICK HERE to see the maps that show the initial progression of the bitter chill into the lower 48. Note that these surface weather maps were drawn up at 8am and again at 8pm on 2/11/1899. They show the large high pressure area moving from north of Montana into South Dakota during the day. Also, the 0 degree line stretches from Maine to South Texas, then back northwestward up the Continental Divide in the Rockies.
There was no stoppin' this air mass! The next day's weather maps, seen by clicking here, reveal the evolution of this dangerously cold air mass, which by now is spreading into the Ohio Valley. Records show that in Bowling Green on 2/12/1899, the high temperature was a frigid 11 degrees, with a low of -9. This would be the first of 3 straight sub-zero nights (the city had already experienced lows of 0 or below four other times that winter season)! For our region, the worst was yet to come...
On Feb. 13th, the arctic high nosed eastward while at the same time, a strong storm riding up the eastern seaboard was blitzing some big cities like Washington, Philadelphia, and New York with feet of snow and blizzard conditions. CLICK HERE for a look at this day's surface maps. By the way, Bowling Green's low temperature on 2/13/1899 was a bone-chilling -17!!
By Valentine's Day 1899, the cold over the Ohio Valley had abated (maybe Cupid warmed things up a tad), at least to the point where high temperatures began to climb to around 40 degrees in South-Central KY. But the far-reaching extent of this air mass, along with its rather long duration, caused ice chunks to form on the Mississippi River in New Orleans, sub-zero lows as far south as Tallahassee, FL (-2 on Feb 13), and and sub-freezing temps as far south as Miami (29 degrees on Feb. 14th). Many folks over the East were lucky in this instance that a fair amount of snow was on the ground, because it acted as good insolation from the extreme cold. In Chicago, the absence of snow cover resulted the freeze penetrating the ground by about 5 feet! The result was a great amount of damage to water, gas, and service lines. Just goes to show a little snow doesn't hurt sometimes!
Just as I pondered last week with the "Ice Storm of '51" post, the same thought crosses my mind now: How would we handle a situation like this today?
Great Ice Storm of 1951
Welcome to February! It's time now for my third and final installment in our "great" series (where's Tony the Tiger when you need him?). This episode may just be the greatest of them all. The Blizzard of 1978, which we mentioned last week, was a crippling event. So, too, was the blockbuster snow of March 1960. As for ice storms, you may recall the one that happened in February 1994 just a few days prior to Valentine's Day. That one was quite damaging, but it still doesn't hold a candle to what took place in South-Central KY from January 31st through the opening days of February.
The "Great Ice Storm of 1951" is regarded by many who remember it as the worst winter storm in Kentucky's history. This was a storm that had it all: Rain, freezing rain, sleet, and snow, and amounts of all precip types were very substantial.
The stage was set for this storm in late January when cold, arctic air filtered into the Ohio and Tennessee Valley region. Meanwhile, low pressure in the Gulf threw large amounts of moisture up and over this cold air mass. Precip broke out in Bowling Green on the morning of January 31st, initially taking the form of snow before mixing with sleet. About 4" of snow and sleet accumulated here prior to the precip switching from frozen to liquid in form during the afternoon hours, as temperatures aloft warmed considerably. However, at the surface, readings were in the upper 20s. As a result, the rain freezed on contact, producing very large ice accumulations across Kentucky and the northern parts of Tennessee.
By the morning of Feb. 1st, Bowling Green was paralyzed. Bitter cold air overtook the area another time, changing the rain back to heavy snow. When all was said and done, nearly 2" of ice and 8" of snow blanketed Bowling Green. By this point, travel was impossible, and communication was hard to come by with power and telephone lines snapping left and right. Thousands of consumers remained without electricity for weeks after the storm. What's worse, road and utility crews had to endure some of the coldest weather South-Central KY had ever experienced following the storm. Temperatures tumbled to a record cold -20 in Bowling Green on the morning of Feb. 2nd! And it wasn't just area that had to endure the wrath of these conditions: The snow and ice affected virtually everyone from Texas into New England. The storm was blamed for 25 deaths, over 500 injuries (many of those from slips and falls), and over $100 million in damage. What a storm!
One has to wonder how we would handle a situation like this in these more technologically-advanced times? We're in a day and age where computers run everything, and a storm the magnitude of 1951 would make really throw a monkey wrench in the everyday routines. Just a little food for thought!
For more info on the "Great Ice Storm", click here.
Great Ohio Valley Blizzard of 1978 (from 1/25/07)
Okay, so we've had part one of our "great" series. Now it's on to part two, and I know for some of you who may remember this event, it's hard to believe almost 30 years have elapsed since. Of course, I'm referring to the very cold, VERY snowy January 1978.
Lots of folks remember the blizzard conditions that blitzed much of Kentucky during the last week of that month. Though I personally don't recall it, this is probably the event that made me a snow lover (and a weather nut) at such an early age. I was not even three years old on January 26, 1978, but apparently I could sense an unusual event was taking place. I'm told to this day by my parents the electricity was out in our west Daviess County neighborhood for many hours during that storm, thanks largely to the strong winds (gusts over 50mph) that toppled over ice-covered power lines. My mom was trying hard to keep me in bed, wrapped beneath a bevvy of blankets, but I couldn't help myself: I kept running from window to window just to see the wind whip snow drifts many feet high all around our house. To this day, I still sometimes glance outdoors--going from window to window in my own home now--waiting for that first flake to fall when snow is anticipated. As they say, some things never change!
But back to January 1978, it was not just one event but several that made this month--and really that entire winter--so remarkable. After a rather balmy start to that month that even saw high temperatures reach the lower 60s in Bowling Green, an arctic blast entered the area January 8th, with temperatures tumbling to near 0. This initial blast was accompanied by some light snow...enough to get many students out of school. In fact, some schools were only open for a day or two after the Christmas break, only to close and--in many cases--stay closed for the rest of the month!!! That's because of the onslaught of one winter storm after the next. These systems didn't just bring a dusting or 1-3" snows....oh no. These were blockbuster snowstorms! One hit January 12th with 4" for Bowling Green, but just a few days later on the 17th, a much stronger system advancing from the southern Plains dealt a widespread swath of some of the heaviest snows this region had seen in years. A general 5-10" of snow fell across South-Central KY, with amounts as high as 15" along the Ohio River between Owensboro and Louisville, as well as 12"+ amounts to the west near Paducah. For a closer look at archived snow totals from this event, click here. This storm prompted a state of emergency for most counties in Kentucky, with the National Guard being called out to assist. But the parade of snowstorms didn't stop with this one...
Another storm dumped over 6" on Bowling Green on the 19h and 20th. On the morning of the 20th, 13" of snow was on the ground here...the most since March 1960. When you click here, you'll notice the heavier snow totals were actually farther south with this storm, stretching into the Nashville area. The four days that followed this snowstorm were quiet but cold. However, the 24th and 25th brought some warmer temperatures to the area. But another big storm--make that TWO storms--waited in the wings.
On the 25th, weather maps showed one area of low pressure to the south over Mississippi, while at the same time, another low was tracking across the northern Midwest from out of North Dakota. The low in Mississippi tracked northnortheast....teaming up with the northern low over Ohio. When the two lows became intertwined, a storm of unbelievable magnitude resulted. Pressures in Ohio dropped to readings never before measured from a storm system other than a hurricane in the northern hemisphere. As the low deepened, rain quickly changed to snow across central and western KY, accumulating up to 6" in some areas. Here's the map from Jan 25, 1978. On the morning of the 26th, South-Central KY residents and folks all across the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes regions awoke to temperatures at or below zero, howling winds, and dangerously cold wind chills (-50 or worse in some cases). Click here to see the weather map from the morning of Jan. 26th (the lines represent isobars--lines of equal pressure that when packed tightly together on a weather map denote very strong winds. Once again, a state of emergency was declared for most of Kentucky, with travel--much less even getting outside--practically impossible! It was far worse, however, for residents of Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan, where dozens died of hypothermia after becoming stranded on roadways or interstates. Livestock losses were also great throughout the region due to the prolonged cold. Click here for a map of snow cover in our region after the blizzard on January 28, 1978. I should note that at one point during this month, La Grange, KY--just NE of Louisville--had a state-record 30" of snow on the ground!! (Source: KY Climate Center).
Wow, what a month! But it didn't stop with the end of January. Several more shots of cold air and snow kept marching through the Blue Grass during February into early March. Snow piles lay in the middle of shopping centers and along the sides of highways well into March in many areas, and even into April in Indiana and Ohio.
It's also worth noting that the winter of '77-'78 was NOT our snowiest in Bowling Green, nor was it even the coldest overall. In fact, we never even saw the temperature dip below zero here that entire season. But it was the repeated shots of cold air--and snow--that made the season memorable.
I'll have the third and final installment of our "great storms" series next week. I'll give you a hint about this last one: It happened over a half-century ago and was more paralyzing for Bowling Green than the '78 blizzard.
Thanks for stopping by!
Great Flood of 1937
Hi and thanks for checking back in! Before I get into the meat and potatoes of this post, I would just like to say "thanks" to the many of you have e-mailed me over the last few days to say "congrats" on my earning the NWA seal of approval. I appreciate the well wishes, as well as your support and trust. Believe me, it means a lot!
Did you notice the word "great" in the title? That will be the theme of not only this blog post, but the next two that follow. These are events that will LONG live in the lore of the Blue Grass for their impacts on lives and property. The first "great" event I'll cover is one that a few of you may still recall, and even if you don't, chances are you've heard stories about it passed down from your parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents. The "Great Flood of '37" was indeed an event of historic proportions...one that simply hasn't been matched since (though March '97 came close--more on that with a later post).
One might have thought the character Noah from bliblical days had paid a visit to Kentucky during January 1937. Rainfall amounts across the Commonwealth were staggering that month, and it wasn't just one or two big rain events that caused problems (a la '97 or last September). These rains came in rapid succession, and when they came, they often came down hard and heavy. Check out these totals from selected days in January '37 for Bowling Green:
Jan. 10th: 1.77"
Jan. 15th: 1.22"
Jan. 18th: 3.75"
Jan. 21st: 2.50"
Jan. 22nd: 2.60"
Jan. 23rd: 2.30"
See what I mean by "staggering"?! Notice that over 7" of rain poured down on Bowling Green from the 21st through the 23rd, with a total of 11.15" from the 18th through the 23rd. That's entirely too much rain in too short of time, and similar rainfall amounts occured over the entire Ohio Valley. Of course, all that water had to go somewhere, and that was to the rivers. In some cases, those rivers not only rised completely out of their banks, they swallowed some towns whole! The result was devestating. Look at these crests along the Green River in South-Central KY (a * indicates a record crest):
In many cases, the high waters either flooded these river towns almost completely...making them only reachable by boat.
The Ohio River flooding in cities such as Cincinnati, Louisville, Owensboro, and Evansville was catastrophic. At one point, about one-third of Kenton and Campbell Counties in northern KY were completely under water. For pictures of the flooding in Cincinnati and Covington, CLICK HERE.
By the time the waters receded in early February, thousands of Ohio Valley natives had lost their lives and over $20 million dollars (1937 dollars) in damage was done.
There's a really neat publication available for those of you who may have ties to Louisville or know someone there who was affected by the massive flooding. Written by Rick Bell, it's entitled, "The Great Flood of 1937: Rising Waters, Lifting Spirits". It's $25 for the softback version. To find out more, CLICK HERE.
That's one "great" event down, two more to go. We'll continue with part two of our "great" series with a memorable 1970's blizzard next week.
Until then, take care!
January Arctic "Smackdowns"!
Allright, so we had a December "smackdown" edition. Now it's time to take a look at a few of the most infamous arctic outbreaks that had Kentucky residents firmly in the freeze box once upon a time.
January 1982:If you're an old school NFL fan, you might be aware of the coldest game in pro football history between the Packers and Cowboys. This January 1967 playoff matchoff was at Green Bay's Lambeau Field, where the air temperature at kickoff time was a brutally cold -15!! (By the way, the Packers--well more accustomed to the chilly weather than the Cowboys--won that game and went on to win the very first Super Bowl). But do you know where and when the SECOND coldest game in NFL history was staged? (Insert "Jeopardy" think music here...) Give up? It happened on January 10, 1982, right upstate and across the Ohio River in Cincinnati. The Bengals took on the San Diego Chargers for the right to play in Super Bowl XVI. This was a BITTERLY COLD afternoon, with a kickoff temperature of -9. But the wind chill was incredibly frigid: -59 at kickoff time!! The folks who left the game with numb extremities will never forget that afternoon. Several Bengals players actually wore short-sleeve jerseys in an attempt to intimadate the rival Chargers' players! That strategy may have worked, as the Bengals easily won the game 27-7.
Some South-Central Kentuckians may also remember that '82 arctic chill. It came in two parts. The first "smackdown" arrived on the weekend of the 9th/10th, when overnight lows dipped into the -5 to -10 range (amazingly, that came with no snow on the ground). The air mass moderated somewhat in the days that followed, though a 3-5" snowfall occured across the area on the 12th and 13th. But the snow cover aided in sending temperatures even lower with the next cold shot that followed. On January 17, 1982, Bowling Green recorded a high temperature of just 8 degees (the lowest high temp ever for that date), and a morning low of -15 (a record low for the date).
January 1985Many area residents recall the persistent cold that lingered for much of this month. The chill settled in the day after New Years, with Bowling's Green's afternoon highs only climbing above 40 degrees on a couple of occasions in January after the 1st. In this period came a MAJOR arctic outbreak that emcompassed much of the eastern 2/3rds of the United States shortly after mid-month.
I remember January 20th, 1985 very well. It was a Sunday, and it's one of the few times I can remember school being called off for the next day NOT so much because of snow (though we did pick up some that night), but because it was so dog-gone COLD!! The very next day was the second inaugaration of President Ronald Reagan, which I remember watching because my mom told me it was too cold to go sledding! I didn;t like her decision at the time, but looking back at the numbers from that day, I must say mom knew best! January 20, 1985 stands as one of the coldest days in Bowling Green's recorded history, with an afternoon high of a mere 3 degrees and an overnight low of -12. Speaking of Reagan's inauguration, it was the coldest day ever for Washington D.C. for a inaugural ceremonies...so cold, in fact, the ceremonies were moved indoors.
January 1963:This one may be the granddaddy of all arctic "smackdowns". The period from January 23rd through the 29th that year was one that might have convinced area residents they were living in Siberia rather than in the Blue Grass. One big story with this one was the HUGE temperature plunge that happened at the onset. On January 23rd, the morning high in Bowling Green hit 45 degrees. But the mercury tumbled downward when an arctic cold front plowed through, and temperatures dropped all the way to -21 that night. That's a drop of 66 degrees in 24 hours!! Just check out these low temperatures from the morning of January 24, 1963. The numbers speak for themselves:
Campbellsville (Taylor Co): -21
Falls of Rough (Grayson Co): -25
Elizabethtown (Hardin Co): -20
Scottsville (Allen Co): -20
Summer Shade (Metcalfe Co): -28
Bonnieville (Hart Co): -34
I should point out that -34 in Bonnieville stood as Kentucky's all-time record low until January 19, 1994, when Shelbyville broke the record with -37 (Source: Kentucky Climate Center). That is incredibly frigid for the Commonwealth!
Perhaps reading of these "smackdowns" will help you prepare for the return of Old Man Winter in the coming days. In case you're wondering, our last sub-zero low in Bowling Green happened in January 2003, and the last time we had a temperature double digits below zero was on January 19, 1994 (same morning in which Shelbyville set the state's record cold temp). Bowling Green's low that morning, a bitter cold -11. Thankfully, cold shots the caliper of those mentioned above are rare, but they CAN happen again!
Until next time,
It Ain't Over Til It's Over!(From 1/2/07)
Hello and welcome to 2007!
Seems the new year is starting similar to the way the old one ended weatherwise: MILD, MILD, MILD!!! There's no doubt fans of "real" winter weather here in the Blue Grass state are hanging their heads these days. It may even have you wondering, "Where the heck is winter?" Of course, if you've been paying attention to the headlines, you're well aware that, at least so far this season, winter's been m.i.a. (missing in action) over the eastern United States, but still alive and kicking out west (where Denver, CO received its third highest December snowfall total ever). True arctic air still remains locked away in the arctic for the time being. Needless to say, times have been tough for snow lovers in this part of the world.
But, to paraphrase the old cartoon character "Quickdraw McGraw", ho-o-o-o-o-ld on there, you winter weather buffs! There's still plenty of time for a late "rally". You know, much like the "Music City Miracle" if you pull for the Tennessee Titans (circa January 2000), or maybe the "Mardi Gras Miracle"...that improbable second half comeback the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team made against LSU back in '94. A quick glance of the calendar is all that's needed to remind us that, a) It's still winter until late March, and b) To quote baseball legend Yogi Berra, "It ain't over till it's over!" That "Yogi-ism" stuck out in my mind when I looked back at a couple of previous South-Central Kentucky winters that started very mild but ended very memorable.
The winter of 1947-48 began balmy for Bowling Green. So balmy, that archived records reveal no measurable snow was reported through December into the first two weeks of January (sound familiar??). Case in point: Bowling Green's high temperature on New Year's Day 1948 was 66 degrees. However, the pattern took a drastic turn in the middle of January that season. Arctic cold took over by Jan. 14th, and that opened the door for system after system to produce significant snows for Kentucky. One storm dumped 6" on Bowling Green Jan. 16th, which was followed by bitter cold temps...dropping to -11 on the morning of the 18th. Ice floes were even reported on the Green and Barren Rivers due to the intense cold. The chill went nowhere the rest of the month, setting the stage for more big snows, including 4.3" on Jan.22nd, 5.5" on Jan. 24th, and 4" on Jan. 26th/27th. By the time January 1948 was over, a total of over 22" of snow accumulated in Bowling Green. Another 3.7" fell in February for a final tally of 26" for the season! No one would have thought that possible in the first week of January that year.
Another prime example that gives more creedance to the legenadary Yogi Berra's belief is the winter of 1965-66. This one began in the same vein as 1947-48, with plenty of mild air and a noted absence of the white stuff. In fact, no snow fell at all through December '65, and aside from just a couple of instances of light snow, early January '66 gave winter weather fans little to cheer about. Then along came January 22nd, when a blockbuster storm dumped 6-8" of snow on South-Central Kentucky. For the two weeks that followed, some brutally cold air was experienced in our area. Widespread record lows were reached on the morning of the 30th, with an extremely frigid -17 registered in Summer Shade (southern Metcalfe County). Another winter storm produced a mixed bag of precip in the area on February 1st, with the cold air not lifting until the following week. In many parts of South-Central Kentucky, at least 1" lay on the ground from Jan. 22nd through Feb. 6th, 1966. Though not as snowy as late January 1948, this was still quite a reality check for residents of our area who had enjoyed many days of 50 and 60 degree weather in the first few weeks of winter.
So, does history repeat itself? It's interesting to note that the winter of 1965-66 was an "El Nino" winter, much like this season. But Mister Berra has a quotable quote for everything, it seems. "The future ain't what it used to be," he once said. When you pause and ponder that one for a moment, you realize he's exactly right. But in the LITERAL sense, is it that saying or the aforementioned "It ain't over till it's over" that applies to the rest of the winter of 2006-07? We'll soon find out.
The Top Ten Local Weather Events of 2006 (from 12/26/06)
Hi there! I hope you had an enjoyable Christmas!
We're counting down the hours left in 2006, and there aren't that many! That means it's time to look back at some of South-Central Kentucky's most significant and memorable weather events of the past year. As I comprised this list (with the help and opinions of fellow First Alert Storm Team members Chris, Brandon, and Matt), I realized this year has been quite active indeed! Make that, active from the VERY start, even, with our unanimously picked #1 event serving as proof.
But first, a few weather "happenings" in the year 2006 that did not make our top 10, though they at least deserve some honorable mention:
--No 100 degree temps again for Bowling Green this summer (last 100 degree high: Sept. 5, 1999)
--6th Warmest January of All-time (this might have made our list if it had been warmer)
--Flooding on January 23rd--Many rural roads in the eastern part of the WBKO viewing area were under water in this one, with one home flooded in Campbellsville
--May 25th Severe Weather--Thunderstorms packing straight-line winds of 70 mph took down trees and power lines in portions of Grayson, Breckinridge and northern Barren Counries
--March 9th Severe Weather--Strong winds ripped the roofs off barns in Metcalfe County
And now (drumroll please...where's David Letterman when we need him!), South-Central Kentucky's Top 10 Weather Events of 2006:
10. SLEEPY TROPICS: The much-ballyhooed tropical season is a relative bust, with NO tropical cyclones affecting South-Central Kentucky in any way this year.
9. THE HUNT FOR WARM OCTOBER: The early fall brings an early taste of winter to our area, with 6 mornings dawning with freezing or sub-freezing temps (most since 1988). But things would change in late November...
8. POST-THANKSGIVING INDIAN SUMMER: A spell of record-setting warmth settles into Kentucky in the final few days of November. Included in this spell are two mornings with record "high" low temperatures, and a record high on the afternoon of the 30th (76 degrees).
7. MOVIE STORE MICROBURST: A localized but VERY damaging wind event takes down a movie rental store in Campbellsville on the evening of May 18th. Winds from this thunderstorm are estimated to be over hurricane force. Thankfully, no one is seriously injured or killled.
6. LET IT SNOW: Bowling Green experiences its snowiest February since 1986, with a monthly total exceeding 8" at the airport. Though there are no major winter storms, snow events of 1-3" blanket South-Central Kentucky on three consecutive February weekends.
5. DECEMBER: IN LIKE A LION!: That distinction usually belongs to March, but not in 2006. A sharp cold front rolls through the area in the wee hours of Dec. 1st, with strong, non-thunderstorm damaging winds reported in several locations across the Commonwealth. This system also puts an abrupt end to the unseasonable late-November warmth, with readings tumbling into the 20s on the morning of the 2nd.
4. HORRIBLE NIGHT IN "HOPTOWN": A major outbreak of severe weather impacts much of the lower Ohio Valley on Sunday, April 2nd. Included in this outbreak are large tornado-producing "supercell" thunderstorms. One strong twister (an F3) touches down in Hopkinsville, damages or destroys over 200 homes and injures over two dozen people.
3. FLOODING ON FALL'S FIRST WEEKEND: A slow-moving storm system brings severe weather to far western Kentucky on the eve of the September 22nd, followed by extensive flooding/flash-flooding on the 23rd. Two-day rainfall totals of 4-8" are common, especially in the northern/western sections of the WBKO viewing area. Six people are killed from flooding-related deaths in central Kentucky, and two die on the Western KY Parkway when the car they ride in hydroplanes off the roadway. Hundreds of Kentuckians are evacuated due to high waters, and numerous roads are closed. It's the state's worst flooding since 1997.
2. "BLACK FRIDAY": Just as residents of Hopkinsville are picking up the pieces from the tornado of April 2nd, another major outbreak of severe weather strikes the region on April 7th. This one also produces multiple supercell thunderstorms with several tornadoes. One tornado, declared an F2, touches down in southeastern Barren County near Temple Hill. Over a dozen homes are destroyed, with another dozen sustaining heavy damage. This twister would carve a path into southern Metcalfe County before lifting near Summer Shade. Also on this day, an incredible hailstorm unloads on Horse Cave, doing millions of dollars in property damage. If that's not enough, this busy weather afternoon sees Gallatin, TN struck by a massive tornado, one of the most damaging in all the United States in 2006.
And the number one local event of 2006...
1. A NEW YEAR'S BASH (MOTHER NATURE STYLE): An unusuallly strong (and widespread) severe weather event for January welcomes residents of the Commonwealth to 2006. On January 2nd, Bowling Green basks in record warmth (the day's high: 74) just before a line of strong to severe thunderstorms barrels through around the lunch hour. The storms go on to produce several tornadoes across the area, making it the largest January outbreak in central Kentucky's history. Hardest hit are Elizabethtown, where one tornado does heavy damage on the city's north side, and Columbia, where two tornado touchdowns are reported. Twisters are also sighted in Larue County and Lincoln County near Stanford.
There you have it. Some of our area's most memorable (and maybe forgettable) meteorological episodes of the past year. What does 2007 hold? We'll soon find out together. Happy New Year!!
December Arctic "Smackdowns"! (from 12/14/06)
Thanks for dropping in!
On the subject of things "dropping", we're going to discuss times in December when temperatures tumbled to brutally cold readings seldom experienced in South-Central Kentucky. Now we're not just talking about your "run-of-the-mill here-one-day-gone-the-next" shots of arctic air, oh no. These are what I dub "arctic smackdowns". These are prolonged, record-shattering outbreaks of bitter cold air that hang around for days at a time. These are the kinds of outbreaks where it is so cold you just want to hibernate like a grizzly bear and not emerge from underneath the electric blanket or stray too far from the fireplace. These are the kinds of outbreaks where snow sometimes lingers on the ground for unusually long periods, sometimes for four, five, six days, or even longer. These are the kinds of outbreaks where it can be relatively mild one day, then so cold the next that it almost steals your breath away. These are "smackdowns" (all apologies to World Wrestling Entertainment :)
When digging back through the Bowling Green temperature archives for December, several years stand out as having some of the most brutal arctic invasions of all-time. One of those is 1962. That year, our own Chris Allen was a mere infant in Tennessee, no one in this country knew about the "Beatles" (speaking of "invasions"), and Gene Birk was impressing the young ladies with his moves to "The Twist". Weatherwise, that December started off mild, with highs almost reaching 70 degrees on the 1st (sounds kinda familiar to our current weather situation, huh?). But a trend toward much colder air took hold the next week, with afternoon highs over 20 degrees colder on the 12/6 (33 was that day's high) than those just two days prior. But the real brutally cold air arrived on the 11th. This bitter blast was accompanied by 3" of snow, followed by three consecutive nights with a low temperature at or below 0! Included in that stretch was a daytime high of 10 degrees on 12/12, and an overnight low of -8 the morning of 12/13 (a record for that date). Interestingly enough, this same winter featured one of the worst arctic "smackdowns" of all-time in January 1963 (more on that in a later post!).
Fast-forward now to 1983. Ronald Reagan was President of the United States, and yours truly was just a little whipper-snapper still sporting a full head of hair up the parkway in Daviess County, KY. December that year also began innocently enough, with highs mainly in the 50s and 60s in the first few days. But a "step down" to cold weather took place around mid-month, as highs didn't crack the 40 degree mark for six straight days from the 15th through the 20th. Some light snow occured during that time frame, but no major winter storms. After a brief moderation on the 21st and 22nd, the bottom caved in! The Ohio Valley had its coldest Christmas ever, with a high of just 5 degrees on the Eve, and 10 degrees on Christmas Day. Overnight lows plunged below zero on the 24th and 25th as well. As mentioned in the last post, almost unbelievably, there was no snow on the ground in Christmas 1983. Had that been the case, it's likely temperatures that holiday (highs and lows) would have been EVEN COLDER! That was a different story six years later.
In December 1989, the first President Bush ruled the White House, the "wall" in Berlin had been taken down, and yours truly was still a young whipper-snapper, with spiked hair and--dare I say--a mullet (hey, it was the 80s!), still growing up in Daviess County, KY. This month kicked off with some mild days, including a high of 65 degrees on the 6th. After that, the temperature would not climb beyond the 40 degree mark in Bowling Green until two days after Christmas! This extended period of cold weather supported several rounds of snow, with one storm dumping almost 5" on the 8th. But the intense cold from the 20th through the Christmas holiday is what made this month memorable. Look at these numbers:
12/20/89: High: 25, Low: 7
12/21/89: High: 17, Low: -6
12/22/89: High: 1, Low: -14
12/23/89: High: 9, Low: -11
12/24/89: High: 20, Low: -6
12/25/89: High: 30, Low: 18
Shiver me timbers, now that's a "smackdown"!! Just looking at those readings sends chills down my spine. I should point out 12/22/89 is a dubious day in that two records were established: A record "low" high of 1 little-bitty degree, and a record low that morning of -14, the all-time lowest December temperature for Bowling Green. Yes, it can still get brutally cold in these "modern" times! And unlike 1983, 1" of snow was on the ground Christmas Day. In fact, snow lay on the ground a whopping 10 days during the latter half of December 1989. That's a rarity for our area.
Allright, it's time for this bear to go "hibernate". We'll relive the top 10 local weather moments of 2006 with the next post. Until then, take care!
Just Like the Ones I Used to Know (from 12/6/06)
"I'm dreaming of a White Christmas
with every Christmas card I write..."--Irving Berlin
Okay, you "snow birds"! Can't you just hear Bing Crosby crooning that classic? Yes, December is here, and the time has come to examine our prospects for waking up to a mantle of white come Christmas morn'. If you're a native of South-Central Kentucky, you're well aware that a true "White Christmas" is a rare treat. But it was just two years ago that many in our area experienced the whitest Christmas on record. That's when a blockbuster winter storm dumped as much as a foot of snow on portions of Ohio, Hopkins, and Muhlenberg Counties just a few days prior to the holiday. But just what denotes an "official" White Christmas anyway?
By definition, a "White Christmas" is labeled as such when one of two pieces of criteria are met: Either at least 1" of snow falls on December 25th, OR at least 1" of snow is measured on the ground the morning of December 25th...meaning it does not have to snow on the holiday to make it official. It's that simple. For folks who reside near the Great Lakes or Upper Midwest, or in the high country of the intermountain west or northern Appalachian Mountain chain, seeing a "White Christmas" is simple. For those of us living in the Ohio Valley and points southward, history tells us seeing 1" of snow on Dec. 25th is, well, not simple! Click here for further proof.
Many years have seen air over South-Central Kentucky cold enough to produce wintry precipitation during the Christmas holiday. But it takes sufficient moisture combined with that cold air to yield significant snowfall. Remember Christmas 1983? It was bitterly cold, with Bowling Green's daytime high a mere 10 degrees on Christmas Day, which followed a morning low of -7. Santa Claus probably felt right at home down here! :) However, there was no snow cover in the area that day, even though it was our coldest Christmas of all time. But there were some years in which the stars aligned, so to speak, giving our area some memorable "White Christmases". Let's go through the decades (note: Official snowfall records for Bowling Green only date back to 1932):
1930s: Only one year out of this decade produced an official "White Christmas" for Bowling Green. The week from Christmas 1935 to New Years Day 1936 was a wintry one featuring two major snowstorms. The first of which dumped 4.5" on 12/25/35. Much of that snow still lay on the ground when a second storm arrived with another 8" of snow on 12/29/35. December 1935 still stands as our city's snowiest of all-time.
1940s: None. Flurries are reported on 12/25/43, but that's not enough to make the Christmas "white".
1950s: Still none. Not even our snowiest winter season of all-time (1959-60) gives us a White Christmas. In fact, Bowling Green's high temperature on 12/25/59 is a balmy 56 degrees.
1960s: At long last, the snow drought on Christmas Day comes to an end! On the heels of a "near miss" in 1961, when 1" of snow was measured on Christmas Eve but was gone by Christmas Day, 1962 delivers with 2" of snow on the ground for the holiday. The '60s would prove to be banner years for "White Christmas" lovers, with 6" of snow measured on 12/25/63, 3" on 12/25/66, and 3.4" on 12/25/69. In the case of 1969, the snow actually falls on the 25th.
1970s: A new drought is underway. Ironically, none of the infamously cold and snowy winters of the late '70s gives Bowling Green a "White Christmas".
1980s: The drought continues through some of the mildest--and wettest--Christmases on record. Our warmest of all-time occurs in 1982, with a high of 70 degrees and a low of just 60 on Christmas Day. Five years later, Bowling Green endures almost 3" of rain (2.96" to be exact, on 12/25/87). But just when it looked as if another decade would pass without snow on Christmas, along comes 1989. An extended period of bitter cold air in the days leading up to the holidays ensures our area of its first "White Christmas" in 20 years, with 1" of snow measured Christmas morning. Much of that snow lingered from a weathermaker that spread a general 1-3" on our area on 12/19/89.
1990s: The early part of this decade delivers more snow for the holidays. A close call happens in 1990, when 1" falls on the 24th but melts by the morning of the 25th. Then, two years later, Bowling Green receives its biggest Christmas Day snow since 1935, with 3.5" falling on the 12/25/92. Yet another "White Christmas" follows in 1993, with 1" falling that morning. Little did we know the rest of the years that comprised this decade would not come through with snow for Christmas.
2000s:A new drought of sorts is underway...emphasis on "of sorts" because those living in Bowling Green could make a case for a couple of years: 2000 and 2004. The days leading up to Christmas 2000 were quite cold, with many instances of light snow in the bunch. The "official" National Weather Service records state that only a "trace" of snow was measured here on 12/25/00. To this day, I argue it was closer to 1". Same goes for 2004 (the year of that aforementioned major winter storm). Even though Bowling Green only received sleet out of that system as folks to the northwest got in on the record snows, sleet counts as "snow" in the NWS record books. It remains my contention there was NO WAY that only a "trace" was on the ground here the morning of Christmas 2004 (you know that well if you're a native of the city and were sliding around those icy streets two days following the holiday!). But that's what the records show, which means Bowling Green has now gone "White Christmas"-less since '93. Bah humbug!
Now for the $64,000 question: Will this be the year our "White Christmas" drought meets its end? It remains to be seen, as even though milder air may lock into our region for awhile, there are signs colder air could make a comeback around Christmas. Of course, we'll keep you updated. Until then...
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white..."
Early Season "Freaks": The November Snows of 1950 and 1977 (from 11/29/06)
Hi and thanks for checking back in!
I love digging through archives to find interesting trends. One trend I found is that two of Bowling Green's most severe winters (1950-51 and 1977-78) featured unusually early season winter storms. You could argue both served as signs of times to come for their respective seasons, even though the atmospheric setups that produced the two events were radically different.
On November 24, 1950, what became known as the "Great Appalachian Storm" clocked much of the eastern U.S. in a manner similar to the "Superstorm" of March 1993. This historic snowfall occured when a deep area of low pressure moved up the spine of the Appalachians, drawing in lots of Atlantic moisture into a very cold air mass that resided over the Ohio Valley. The result was a generous dumping of snow to the tune of up to 57" for parts of West Virginia, and 3 feet in parts of Ohio! Although amounts locally were not nearly that impressive, significant accumulations were reported. Perhaps the bigger story with this one was the bitter cold air that poured into Kentucky in its wake. Some snow totals and record lows from the following morning (11/25/50) include:
Bowling Green: 2", Low: -7
Summer Shade (Metcalfe Co): 3.5", Low: -7
Scottsville (Allen Co): 5", Low: -6
Mammoth Cave (Edmonson Co): 5", Low: -8
Fast-forward now to November 27, 1977. Like the '50 storm, this one happened during a Thanksgiving weekend. But unlike the '50 storm, it was a warm front moving into the lower Ohio Valley that produced widespread accumulating snows. Although the snow this weathermaker brought didn't stay on the ground long (only 2 days in most cases), it no doubt made from some rough travel back from Grandma's house after the holiday. Some totals from this winter storm include:
Bowling Green: 3"
Nolin Lake Dam (Edmonson Co): 5"
Rochester (Butler Co): 5"
Hardinsburg (Breckinridge Co): 5.5"
Beaver Dam (Ohio Co): 6"
As mentioned, both these November snows have one thing in common: Each one proved to be harbingers of brutal times ahead for the winter seasons that followed. On February 1st, 1951, South-Central Kentucky experienced what still stands as its worst ice storm on record, with freezing rain accumulating up to 2" and massive power outages. That crippling storm was to be followed by record lows around -20 for Bowling Green and surrounding areas.
The period January 8th to March 1st, 1978 is also significant, as there was at least 1" of snow on the ground in Bowling Green each day. Included in that period was a major snowstorm on January 16th/17th, followed by blizzard conditions on January 26th. Our area also had its coldest February on record that season.
There's another early-season "freak" to add to this list. If you watch our newscasts frequently, you may recall Chris Allen (certainly no freak--haha) and myself mentioning about the November 1966 snow. This one was prehaps more amazing than the '50 and '77 events in that it happened so early in the month (on the 2nd!). It dropped 8" of snow on Bowling Green, with a foot--yes, a foot of the white stuff for places like Glasgow and Mammoth Cave! If you're wondering about the winter that followed, it really didn't bring much severe cold. However, it brought a 6" snow to Bowling Green on December 23, 1966. That snow assured us of a White Christmas!
That makes a perfect segue for next week's blog subject. We'll take a look back at all the mornings we woke up to mantles of white on Christmas Day here in South-Central Kentucky since snowfall records have been kept.
See you in December!
Winter 2006-2007 Outlook (from 11/23/06)
Allright folks, the time has come to look ahead to our upcoming winter season. I emphasize "look ahead" because, if you frequent this blog, you know that's usually not what I do here. But this post will combine a look at the past with a look into the future, with winter fast approaching. I'll give you NOAA's official outlook for the winter season, followed by my own take on it. I should let you know I'll be speaking a little "weatherese" with some technical terms as they relate to the winter patterns, so bear with me!
Before we dive into the atmospheric "players" for this upcoming season, let's first get our time frame established. Of course, winter begins around December 21st, according to the calendar. However, "meteorological" winter, a reference to the coldest time of the season for the Northern Hemisphere, kicks off December 1st (next week). That season ends on March 1st, with the official end of winter (per the calendar) over around March 21st. Now, if you've been in South-Central Kentucky for at least a few years, you're well aware that stranger things have happened well past March 21st in terms of late-season surprises (remember the freak April snow in '04?). But for this outlook, I'll only be focusing on the period Dec 1st through Mar 21st.
Here are the factors taken into consideration for this winter's outlook:
1. El Nino Yes, our old friend "El Nino" is back into the equation for some wintertime shenanigans. As mentioned in a previous post, El Nino refers to an abnormal warming of the Pacific Ocean waters off the northwest coast of South America near Colombia. This year's episode falls in the category of a "weak to moderate" El Nino. It's being called that because the warmest waters are actually a good distance away from the South American coast. A stronger El Nino setup would have that warmest water closer to Colombia. Such was the case in the El Nino episodes of 1982-83 and again in the winter of 1997-98. Both seasons saw a very active, moisture-laden subtropical jet stream (the southern jet branch), but little involvement from the polar jet stream (the northern branch) in terms of transporting much arctic air. Hence, both those winters were very mild with snowfall well below average for South-Central Kentucky. However, just like no two snowflakes are alike, NO TWO EL NINOS ARE ALIKE, either! Our last El Nino episode (winter 2002-03) was considered "weak to moderate". A weaker El Nino tends to open the door more often for the polar jet to come diving out of Canada, giving us more cold air to work with in winter storms. As you may recall, the winter of '02-'03 was quite cold overall with snowfall above average for Bowling Green. The current setup draws many comparisons to that of four seasons ago. Things that make you go hmmm...
2. Oscillations I'll almost guarantee that, following the first broadscale snow/ice storm over the eastern U.S. this season, all fingers from "media types" will point toward El Nino. It always seems to happen that way! :) But, there are many other factors UNRELATED to El Nino that must be thrown into the winter mix...factors that you likely won't hear about from the general media. For example, positioning of strong high pressure centers originating from the Arctic or Siberia will have much to do with how much cold air makes it into the lower 48 this season. That is dictated NOT by El Nino, but by oscillations, or the shifting of semi-permanent pressure systems over areas of the globe. One oscillation known as the North-Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) will have a HUGE impact on upper level winds and what direction they decide to blow. Others like the PDO (Pacific-Decedal Oscillation) play a role in the amplitude of the jet stream, as this oscillation dictates whether or not ridges or troughs are in place out near the West Coast.
3. Snow Cover The depth and coverage of snow cover over the Northern Hemisphere also weighs heavily on winter forecasts for our area. If the snow pack covers more real estate and is deep, it makes a cold air mass even colder due to the "refridgeration" effect. If the polar jet drops south with that cold air into more areas with snow cover, there's less of a chance for that air mass to modify. Interestingly, there is above average snow cover to our north across Canada and the polar regions at the moment.
4. Other Factors Some items that are given a little but not as much weight as those previously mentioned include: Seasonal and regional climatology, recent upper air patterns, and good old-fashioned "gut" feeling.
Okay, snow lovers, I know the literal translation of those maps may not be to your liking, but don't despair!! NOAA's forecast is based primarily on the climatology of past El Nino winters. So, I would take that forecast with a grain of salt.
Let's look at monthly averages for Bowling Green before we go into my outlook (Note: These numbers are based on 30-year climatological averages from 1971-2000). "Mean" refers to overall average temp for a month):
DECEMBER: Avg High: 47.4, Avg Low: 29.2, Mean Temp: 38.3, Snowfall: 0.9"
JANUARY: Avg High: 43.0, Avg. Low: 38.3, Mean Temp: 34.2, Snowfall: 4.1"
FEBRUARY: Avg High: 48.6, Avg Low: 28.6, Mean Temp: 38.6, Snowfall: 4.0"
MARCH: Avg High: 58.6, Avg Low: 36.9, Mean Temp: 47.8, Snowfall: 1.1"
One more note: This is NOT an official First Alert Storm Team forecast, it's merely my take on the upcoming season. Here it is:
DECEMBER Temps: Will Average 2-3 Degrees Above Monthly Mean Temp (38.3), with 1" of Snow (Near Normal)
JANUARY Temps: Will Average 2-3 Degrees Below Monthly Mean Temp (34.2), with 7.5" of Snow (About 3 1/2" Above Normal)
FEBRUARY Temps: WIll Average Near Monthly Mean Temp (38.6), with 3.5" of Snow (About 0.5" Below Normal)
MARCH Temps: Will Average 1-2 Degrees Above Monthly Mean Temp (47.8), with 1" of Snow (Near Normal)
CHANCES FOR A SUB-ZERO TEMPERATURE: 40%
CHANCES FOR A 4"+ SNOW IN 24 HOURS: 60%
CHANCES FOR A 6"+ SNOW IN 24 HOURS: 30%
--Our last occurance of 6" of snow from one storm was in January 1996.
--Our last occurance of sub-zero temperatures (not wind chill) was in January 2003.
--Bowling Green's Snowiest Winter: 1959-1960: 48"
--Bowling Green's Least Snowiest Winter: 1949-1950: Trace
There you have it. To sum it up, I think even though we may wind up a bit below average in terms of precip overall (as NOAA suggests), I think enough cold air and moisture will team up to give us a final season snow tally this is above average (likely near 12"). I believe the final total is likely higher for areas north and east of Bowling Green (closer to 15" for Campbellsville, Greensburg down to Russell Springs and Albany), and a bit lower for areas south and west (near 10" for Hopkinsville, Elkton, and northern middle Tennessee). You'll also notice my thinking in that January, unlike last which was our 6th warmest of all time, behaves more like January. I think we'll have more available arctic air to produce more wintry precip. Thus, January should be our snowiest month, rather than February, which was the case last winter. And, yes, I wouldn't rule out at least one significant ice storm that produces more than 1/4" of ice for at least part of the WBKO viewing area. I also believe we'll have some spells of very cold weather in December and again in February, though more periods of milder weather those two months will temper the cold(esp. in December).
One more interesting tidbit: The infamous winter of 1977-78 was an "El Nino" season. If you were around then, chances are you recall the bitter cold and frequent snows well. Our snowfall total that season was 31". I don't think this one will be that severe.
Comments? Do you agree or disagree with my outlook? Feel free to drop me a line at my e-mail address above. Of course, if you look back at this in March and find that things didn't verify, you have every right in the world to chide me :) If I'm wrong, hey, I'm wrong.
Let the games begin.
More Novembers to Remember
Hi there! We're keeping with our theme of "rough stuff" in November with this posting. It's interesting to note that some of the most memorable tornado outbreaks in recent years have happened in the fall rather than in spring.
South-Central Kentucky's weather during the late morning and early afternoon hours of November 9, 2000 was very active, to say the least. An organized line of thunderstorms featuring widespread straight-line winds raced through Bowling Green during the lunch hour. Wind gusts clocked at over 70mph downed numerous trees and power lines all over the city. Though Bowling Green dodged tornadic weather with this event, other locations weren't so lucky. Burkesville (Cumberland Co) was hard hit, as an F1 twister ripped the roofs of several homes as it cut a path through the community. Another tornado did similar damage near Horse Cave in Hart County. Other twisters were confirmed by the National Weather Service in Marion, Washington, and Woodford Counties to our northeast. No fatalities were reported with this episode, thankfully.
Fast-forward to Sunday, November 10, 2002, and what's now known as the "Veteran's Day Weekend Outbreak". This was one of the biggest, most broad-scale severe outbreaks ever to occur in the fall. It produced some 75 tornadoes and impacted 13 states, including the Commonwealth. The event was actually two-fold, with one round of severe thunderstorms pummeling the area during the pre-dawn hours that day. In that first round, an F1 twister touched down in the small community of New Roe (Allen Co), taking out a mobile home and damaging several other structures. Another round of intense storms developed late that Sunday afternoon, producing more tornadoes in Tennessee. Over 30 were killed in the Volunteer State, with a total of 36 fatalities from the outbreak overall. On a personal note, I recall that Sunday well, as it was one of the first major severe weather events I covered here at WBKO.
Last, but not least, is the severe weather episode of Tuesday, November 15, 2005. In the days leading up to this event, we had a good idea that some very favorable atmospheric conditions would be setting up over the lower Ohio Valley that afternoon. The Storm Prediction Center knew that, too, placing much of the western one-half of Kentucky under a HIGH RISK for severe weather that day. Mother Nature certainly didn't disappoint! Several tornadoes wreaked havoc over the WBKO viewing area that afternoon and evening. Significant damage took place in the Stowers community of Simpson Co, where an F2 was confirmed. F1 twisters touched down near Adairville in southern Logan County (this one literally tossed a mobile home onto Hwy. 100 and destroyed a barn) and in southern Warren County, where some farms in Woodburn took it on the chin. But there was one tornado in the viewing area that was far more severe...so severe, in fact, that it earned the dubious distinction of being the STRONGEST IN THE ENTIRE NATION for all of 2005.
It's nothing short of a miracle there were no fatalities in the savage F4 (winds 207 mph+) twister that tore through Hopkins County last year. This massive tornado was about a 1/2 mile wide when it tore through the Earlington area, turning homes into rubble and changing lives forever. Some 150 building were completely demolished, and over 360 were damaged to some extent. There were 37 injuries blamed on this twister, but at least the numbers were kept down thanks in large part to a good heads up from forecasters in the private and public sectors leading up to this event. It's also worthy of noting that this event took place in the afternoon, unlike the very unfortunate occurance in Evansville, Indiana just 9 days prior.
For more on the November 10, 2002 outbreak, CLICK HERE
And for some dramatic pictures of the aftermath of that Hopkins County tornado, CLICK HERE. Just click on the play button on the lower left side of the gallery after it's had a couple of minutes to load.
One more note before I run, NOAA will release it's final outlook for the upcoming winter next week. We'll shed some more light on that subject with the next post.
November? No Matter (with Severe Weather)! (from 11/1/06)
Welcome to the new month! Thanks for stopping by.
As you know, it's been quite cool and damp of late. But at least we've gotten a respite from severe weather since the storms and flooding of September 22nd/23rd. That, of course, is a good thing. However, all of us (even us forecasters) can be lulled into complacency from time to time. That's especially true when go for long periods without hail-producing, wind damaging storms, or for that matter, tornadoes. If there's one thing 2005 taught us: We should NEVER become too complacent. As we've documented in a previous blog, the mid-autumn period (late October into November) often gives us a secondary severe weather season. Last year is proof that the guard just can't be let down, even as we're heading toward winter.
There were two significant rounds of severe weather in November 2005. The first (and deadliest) took place in the wee hours of Sunday morning, Nov. 6th, when an organized line of thunderstorms marched eastward into Kentucky. On that eastward march, one storm over far northwest Kentucky in Henderson County took on strong rotation in the atmosphere's lowest levels. This wound up becoming a powerful tornado...one that crossed the Ohio River 3 times on its journey through 3 counties. This F3 twister tore through many neighborhoods, farms, and businesses on its path, doing almost $100 million in damage. Extensive damage was also inficted on the famed Ellis Park, just north of Henderson. But this tornado has a more dubious distinction: It was our nation's deadliest twister since May 1999. Those fatalities all occured in the Eastbrook Mobile Home Community on the southeastern suburbs of Evansville, IN. Among the 350 trailers in the park, over 100 were completely destroyed and over 100 more were heavily damaged. Truly a sad, devestating event.
Though we escaped fatalities here in South-Central Kentucky that night, we did not escape the tornadic weather. At around 4:30 the morning of 11/6/05, an F2 tornado touched down near the Green River in central Hart County and moved northeast right into the heart of Munfordville's business district. Over 80 structures were damaged (some extensively), racking up over $2 million in insured losses when all was said and done. Unfortunately, much of that damage occured to some historical buildings, including a 19th century, Civil War era home with walls over 18" thick located in downtown Munfordville (this building was later condemned). By the same token, however, perhaps it was a blessing in disguise that it was mainly commercial property that took it on the chin with this tornado, because most of those buildings were unoccupied when the storm struck. That in itself was a big reason no lives were lost in Munfordville that morning.
It doesn't matter the time of day or the time of year. Last November proved that severe weather can strike ANY TIME!! Many folks were asleep when the twisters roared through our region early that Sunday morning. That's why we here in the First Alert Weather Center can't emphasize enough the importance of owning a NOAA weather radio. And if you haven't already done so, check out the information here on our weather link regarding how you can purchase--and program--your radio.
It's the White Halloween, Charlie Brown! (from 10/25/06)
Hi! Sorry for taking so long to post again, as I was away for the better part of the last week.
I feel it appropriate to initiate this post with the theme from Rod Serling's classic 1950s and '60s sci-fi show, "The Twilight Zone"....
Do, do, do, do....do, do, do, do....
I pull that little ditty out because we're going back 13 years to an event that many South-Central Kentuckians remember vividly (especially those now in their late teens or early 20s that were trick-or-treating at the time). On October 30, 1993, it seemed we were indeed traveling somewhere in another dimension with Mr. Serling. But this was not just a dimension of sight and sound. It's a dimension of cold and snow...yes, accumulating snow in the month of October! Do, do, do, do...do, do, do, do...
Halloween weekend '93 was quite unusual for the lower Ohio Valley, which is putting it mildly. All the necessary ingredients for seeing an historic early season snowfall came together late on the night of Oct. 29th, and by the morning of the 30th, portions of the Blue Grass state were covered in white. A low pressure system positioned in the northern Gulf of Mexico on the 29th moved northeast to the Mid-Atlantic states on the 30th. Wraparound moisture and unseasonably cold air, along with a trailing upper air disturbance in the low's wake, caused a chilly rain to transition over to a wet snow across postions of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. By the evening of the 30th, almost 1" (.9" to be exact) fell on Bowling Green, marking the only time measurable snow has occured in the recorded history of South-Central KY's biggest city during October. But that's not what made it so memorable: The city was celebrating Halloween on the 30th this year, as the 31st fell on a Sunday. Trick-or-treating in the snow? You betcha. Perhaps those "Snow Caps" they sell in movie theaters would have made for the best Halloween candy back in '93!! By the way, Bowling Green's high temperature on 10/30/93 was a mere 37 degrees!
Snow amounts were even more impressive across the northern one-half of the Commonwealth. Cities such as Louisville, Owensboro, and Henderson recorded anywhere from 2-3" of the white stuff, while Hardinsburg (Breckinridge Co.) and Hartford (Ohio Co.) picked up 3". Even as far south as Woodbury in Butler County, 1.5" of snow fell. All are October records from an amazing early-season event.
Not too far from home, some 6" of snow was measured at the Greater Cincinnati International Airport (which is actually on the northern KY side of the Ohio River). That, too, was a record for metro Cincy, and the heavy mantle of white was enough to even down some power lines, leaving 5000 Cincy residents without electricity for a time after the winter storm.
The "White Halloween"...truly a weather event for the ages...and dimensions (do, do, do, do...).
Have a happy (and safe) Halloween!
Take the Weather With You! (from 10/11/06)
You might say I'm "changing the lattitudes" a bit with today's post. That's right...we're going to the "Far Side of the World", taking a "Trip Around the Sun", and on the way back, we may even pay a visit to the "Everlasting Moon." Who knows? We may even settle down with a "Cheeseburger in Paradise" when it's all over. Oh, I do like mine with lettuce and tomato, Heinz 57, and french-fried potatoes, in case you were wondering.
Allright, perhaps a few of you know were I'm going with this, but if by chance you're not sure, those aforementioned titles are those of songs from my favorite singer: Jimmy Buffett. For the last 14 years, I've considered myself a huge "parrothead" (die-hard Buffett fan, a knockoff of "deadhead" if you weren't aware). I boast of owning all Buffett studio CD's (there are well over 30), numerous live albums, and even old records (you kids remember those black discs that used to spin around on a turntable?--ha!!). I'm also a veteran of 11 concerts. If you've never attended a Jimmy Buffett show, it is quite an experience!
Buffett is not only a multi-platinum recording artist and best-selling book author, he's also well-traveled as a sailor and airplane pilot. So perhaps it's no coincidence that among the hundreds of songs Buffett has recorded in his 36 year career, a great many of them contain a reference to weather...either in the title or embedded somewhere in the song lyrics. "Take the Weather With You" just so happens to be the title of his new CD released in stores Tuesday. As the song says, "Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire couldn't conquer the blue sky." That's not the only weather-related tune on the new release: "Bama Breeze" is the very first track (you may hear that one on country radio in the coming weeks). There's also "Nothing but a Breeze", and a moving retrospect on Hurricane Katrina entitled "Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On". Now you see how the new album received its appropriate title!
Other Buffett releases with references to atmospheric properties include "Barometer Soup" from 1995. "Barefoot Children in the rain...got no need to explain" is a lyric from this album's 2nd track. Just a year later, "Banana Wind" was unleashed, with a funny line some of us TV types can relate to in the song "Holiday": "The weather channel girl with her perfect weather curl is talkin' cold, cold, cold..." There's also "Kick It into Second Wind", "Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season", and one of my favorites, "The Weather is Here, I Wish You Were Beautiful", off 1980's Coconut Telegraph album. And that's barely scratching the surface.
Back in September, just after Labor Day, I often think of a lyric from "When the Coast is Clear", off the album "Floridays":
They're closing down the hangout
The air is turning cool
They're shuttin' off the superslide
The kids are back in school
But perhaps no set of song lines demonstrates Jimmy's awareness of the atmosphere better than this one from "Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season":
Well, the wind is blowin' harder now
50 knots or thereabouts
There's whitecaps on the ocean
And I'm watching for waterspouts
Now that's a singer with some weather savvy!
Before I run, there will be no post here next week, but I'll be back in action the following week to have a look back at an infamous "White Halloween" that some of you just may recall...
Take care, and remember: Everywhere you go, always take the weather with you!
Frymire: A Fearless Forecaster! (from 10/6/06)
Ah, yes, that time is upon us again. The leaves are changing color, fall festivals are in full swing, hot dogs are roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose...allright, allright. Maybe we're not ready for THAT time of year just yet, but one man in Breckinridge County is already thinking ahead. That man is Dick Frymire, an expert on weather lore who resides in the tiny hamlet of Irvington...close to the Meade County border. For decades now, this doctor of barnyard science has been making his own winter prognostications from his home. He actually "listens" to what his Japanese maple tree has to say. Well, his tree must have a hunch that this winter just MIGHT be a little snowier than the last. Here's his prediction for this season:
Oct. 18 — Killing frost
Nov. 9 — Snow flurries
Nov. 19 — Tracking snow
Nov. 27 — 1 inch snow
Dec. 1 — Flurries
Dec. 10 — 2 inches
Dec. 25 — 2 inches
Jan. 11 — 3 inches
Jan. 16 — 5 inches
Jan. 21 — 11 degrees below zero
Jan. 29 — 2 inches
Feb. 5 — 1 inch
Feb. 10 — 2 inches
Feb. 16 — Sleet, hazardous driving
March 6 — Flurries
March 15 — 1 inch
April 10 — Flurries
There you have it. He projects a total of 14 snow events...the biggest coming on January 16th.
So what impact will this winter's projected "El Nino" pattern have on Frymire's forecast? The answer: Almost certainly a rather sizable one, if past events are any indication. In short, "El Nino" refers to abnormal warming of the Pacific Ocean waters that occurs roughly every 3 to 7 years off the coast of South America (primarily Peru and Equador). This scenario often throws weather patterns throughout North America--not to mention all around the globe--into a quandry. Often in El Nino winters, the subtropical jet branch (also known as the southern branch or the "pineapple" connection, as it streams from near Hawaii into the lower 48) may position itself over the Deep South for days at a time...pumping in deep, tropical moisture. As a result, much of the southern half of the U.S. experiences a wetter-than-average winter when this setup holds true. The caveat is the involvement, or sometimes lacktherof, of the northern jet branch, or polar jet. This is the branch that's responsible for sending down those cold, arctic blasts during the winter months. When the polar and subtropical jet streams merge, or "phase", the result can be a "big ticket item", or major winter storm, for the Ohio Valley.
The most recent El Nino winter was that of 2002-03. It just so happens this was Bowling Green's snowiest season in the last 10 years. Though there were no real "blockbuster" snows for our area that season, the number of snow events was rather high. One of the most notable events happened very early in the season--December 4th to be exact--when much of South-Central Kentucky picked up 2-4" of snow with some ice thrown in for good measure (snow still lay on the ground of the Christmas Parades that weekend, as you may recall). This was also the same season a crippling ice storm rocked the northern half of the Commonwealth, with heavy freezing rain knocking out power to many thousands for days, if not weeks, in the Lexington area during February.
Perhaps one of our most infamous "El Nino" winters was that of 1977-78. This one had it all: Jet stream phasing led to several big-ticket items (MAJOR snow events), blizzard conditions on 1/26/78, and our coldest February on record. Snow lay on the ground from the first week of January all the way into mid-March in some locales. Over 31" of snow was measured in Bowling Green this season (on average, we see about 10"). Though official snowfall records don't stretch back that far, the winter of 1918 was also quite severe for Kentucky. That, too, was an "El Nino" year. Stories of unimaginable snows and bitter cold outbreaks have been passed through the generations since.
But hold the phone, you fans of the "white stuff"! Not all "El Nino" are created equal. For example, the winter of 1994-95 was very balmy and featured seasonal snowfall totals under 5" for much of South-Central Kentucky. The winters of 1997-98 and 1982-83 were also underacheivers as far as snowfall tallies, as these seasons also gave us numerous warm spells with the polar jet frequently camped out over Canada. Incidentally, those two seasons featured unusually stout El Nino episodes, with southern California taking it on the chin with record heavy rains and mudslides.
Will this year's event be as robust as '97-'98? Most in the forecasting community think probably not, but it will be interesting to see how things pan out. As Bob Dylan once sang, the answer is blowing in the wind. Or, perhaps, it just might be hidden within the bark of a Japanese maple tree somewhere. Maybe if I stick my ear up against it, I just might learn something...
"A Very Exceptional Event"(from 9/27/06)
The title of this posting is a direct quote from Bud Schardein, executive director of Louisville's metro sewer district, in reference to those soaking rains of the past weekend. What an event, indeed! The numbers tell the story of what the Commonwealth of Kentucky endured: 8 flooding fatalities, 18 counties declaring states of emergency, and up to 10 inches of rain in less than 48 hours. And lest we forget about the severe weather the system produced. Though there were no tornado touchdowns here in the WBKO viewing area, the National Weather Service in Paducah confirmed F1 tornado touchdowns in Crittenden, Webster, and Daviess Counties to our northwest. These were among about 3 dozen twisters spawned by this complex weathermaker. That is significant, because even though severe weather episodes are rather commonplace in late fall (a la late October/November) for our part of the world, they usually don't happen this early in the season.
Most tornado events that occur in the U.S. during September or early October are usually the product of landfalling tropical systems. In 2004, remnants of Hurricane Frances spawned some 117 twisters over the southeast U.S in early September. Later that month, Hurricane Ivan's remnants spun up 104 confirmed tornadoes over the same region. However, it's more unusual for a non-tropical weathermaker to produce a blockbuster tornado outbreak this time of year. Basically, it takes the right combination of moisture, lift, instability, and strong upper-air dynamics for tornadoes to develop. In the fall, cold fronts diving southeastward from Canada are sometimes starved for deep moisture, and if that ingredient is missing it becomes harder to get a bonafide severe outbreak. But the system we dealt with late last week had ALL those ingredients...something atypical for early autumn.
So when was the last time severe weather impacted South-Central Kentucky in late September? Well, I had to go back to Sept. '02 for that, when our archived weather records reveal much of the area was under a tornado watch on the afternoon of 9/20/02. The last three Septembers have been void of any significant severe episodes in our immediate area. That's not to say tornadic weather in early autumn is unheard of, though. On September 24, 1976, thunderstorms spun up several tornadoes along the Ohio River in Southern Indiana and northern Kentucky. In a similar vein, another significant early fall tornado outbreak occured a year later on October 1, 1977. This stormy Saturday saw 4 confirmed twisters roar through portions of the Blue Grass. One of those--an F2--injured 16 people in Laurel County. Just more proof that, even though it doesn't happen often, tornadoes CAN strike this time of year if atmospheric conditions are right.
Of course, if you've been around these parts in recent years, you know that our "second season" for severe weather is typically late October through November. So far in this new millenium, the records tell us we can usually expect at least one significant severe weather occurance during late fall. Cases in point: November 9, 2000 and October 21, 2001, where squall lines accompanying cold frontal passages brought widespread straight-line wind damage to the region. November 10, 2002 was a dangerous day that saw tornadoes rake across Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, killing over 30 in the Volunteer state. And though '03 and '04 gave us relatively quiet late fall seasons, Mother Nature made up for lost time in '05, with two tornadic episodes on 11/6 (night of Evansville, IN and Munfordville twisters), and 11/15 (tornado touchdowns in Logan, Simpson, and Warren Counties).
So...will there be another "exceptional event" before fall is out? We shall see.
Oh, before I run, if you're a winter weather fan, you'll want to check back here next week. We'll have fun with some "Frymire folklore", and find out what "El Nino" has given us in winters past.
Fall's First Freeze
First Freeze?? As Gary Coleman used to ask during puzzling moments on the TV sitcom "Different Strokes" some years back, "What chu talkin' 'bout, Willis?" Yes, it does seem rather early to be talking about that, especially considering there's technically one more week of summer left. But, believe or not, history tells us that we have to start thinking about frost and freeze possibilities as early as late September.
For those who farm for a living, particularly those who practice double-crop farming (just as my family did some years ago), an early frost/freeze can have a BIG impact on yields. The leaves of soybeans planted in this area back in late June or early July are just starting to turn from green to a light yellow, and farmers will tell you cold temperatures in the 30s this early in the season would be a killer. Tender vegetation that's not so hardy can also suffer from a chill that comes too soon. Though it's rare, those "too cold too early" kind of readings have reared their ugly heads before October 1st.
Two of Bowling Green's chilliest early season snaps occured in consecutive years WAY back when: 1888 and 1889. Overnight lows in the 30s were common in late September both years, but the cold snap of 1889 was worse. The mercury dropped to the freezing mark on 9/28/1889, the earliest it's ever done so here. Then the bottom really fell out two mornings later on the 30th, with a low of 26 degrees recorded. That's a HARD FREEZE...in September! Brrrr!!!
Interestingly, we have not had any sub-freezing September lows in Bowling Green since the 19th century, but we had a real close call in 1983. Archived weather maps show a massive high pressure area (1030 mb--VERY strong for early autumn standards) dove south out of Canada just as summer turned to fall that year. The high settled over the Central Plains on the morning of the 23rd before heading east into the Upper Ohio Valley the next morning. The result for Kentucky was an unusually cool spell of temperatures, with morning lows dropping into the 30s. On 9/22/83, Bowling Green's minimum temp was a nippy 37 degrees, and on 9/24, the mercury plunged to 33 degrees, both of which still stand as records. Though actual frost records are not recorded, one can believe residents of South-Central Kentucky woke up to discover that Jack Frost had visited the region early on the 24th. Weather maps from that day show our area had clear skies and light winds.
In case you're wondering, the average dates for a first freeze fall during October for our area. Normally, the first occurance of a 36 degree low (one that usually produces a decent frost) ranges from October 1st in Hardinsburg to October 15th for cities near the TN border (a la Gamaliel and Tompkinsville). The first 32 degree low typically happens around October 10th in the Hardinsburg area, October 23rd for Bowling Green, and around October 30th for the Scottsville and Tompkinsville areas.
One more note about the '83 cold snap: The high in Bowling Green was 91 degrees just 5 days prior to that 37 on 9/22. Fall can bring back those temperature roller coasters...making life more challenging for us forecasters in the wake of the "dog days." Big swings...that's what I'm talkin' 'bout, Willis!!
Until next time,
90 Degree Heat: See You in September (or Next Year)?
Back in the late 1960s (aka the "Gene Birk Rock-n-Roll era"), a group called "The Happenings" had a big hit with a song called, "See You in September." Of course, the "you" in that tune was not a wish to see more heat and humidity! I think it's safe to say by now we've had our fill of that and are ready for fall, which by the way, begins in 2 1/2 weeks according to the calendar. But we can never write off late-season "happenings" of hot temperatures. That's largely due to a phenomena known as "themal lag." Thermal lag is a product of the ground and ocean's warmest temperatures "lagging" behind the period of highest sun angles in the northern hemisphere. Even though our longest day in terms of sunlight hours is usually around June 22nd, our hottest weather is typically not experienced until July and August when daylight hours are actually decreasing. By late September, it becomes more unusual for South-Central Kentucky to reach the 90 degree mark...much less endure a prolonged streak of it (a heat wave). But as they say, stranger things have happened!
The most recent occurance of hot weather deep into September happened in 1998. The last six days of that month saw Bowling Green's high temperature at or above 90 degrees. Amazingly, there were even a couple of highs of 94 in that stretch. Two things spurred this heat wave on: First, there was a massive ridge of high pressure in the upper atmosphere dominating the mid South region and eastern U.S. Even New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. were getting in on afternoon temps in the 90s, while the same kind of heat stretched as far northward as Indianapolis and Columbus in the Ohio Valley. Unusually dry weather was the other major factor in producing the steamy readings. Consider this: For August and September '98 combined, Bowling Green only picked up 1.50". Drier ground provides less evaporation to help cool surrounding air. Thus, temperatures were allowed to get unusually high for the autumn season. It's worth noting that Hurricane Georges made landfall over the Mississippi Gulf coast that week, but its remnant moisture stayed well south of Kentucky. Those dry conditions of late '98 marked the beginning of a three year climatological drought for our area.
Now that 90 degree streak we just mentioned ended on October 1, 1998, when a cold front knocked highs back into the 70s for much of the Blue Grass state. It's almost as if Mother Nature "knew" September was over, because once we enter the 10th month of the year, readings in the 90s go from unusual to almost unheard of. I had to dig WAY back over 40 years to uncover our last 90 degree day in October in Bowling Green. It happened on 10/11/1963. Interestingly enough, the overall pattern shared some similarities to that of late September 1998. We were EXTREMELY dry in October '63, with no rain for the month at all until the 27th, when a WHOPPING .07" was measured! High pressure ridging along with very dry conditions allowed the mercury to soar from a morning low of 50 to a high of 90 on Oct. 11th. With that kind of temperature spread, one can assume humidities were low, so at least that 90 didn't feel any hotter. Still, that's a RARE find for so late in the season in these parts!!
So there you have it, warm weather fans. History tells us we shouldn't put away the tank tops and shorts even as late as October...even though many of us would rather be donning the flannels and long pants by that time.
To paraphrase yet another tune from Gene Birk's rock era--one by Rod Stewart--it's "early" September, and I really should get back to work!
Katrina: Foe for Some, Friend for Others
The day I write this marks the one year anniversary of the Gulf Coast landfall of Hurricane Katrina. As you know, the storm was a monster, and no one from southeastern Louisiana to Mobile Bay in Alabama will soon forget it. It now ranks as the costliest hurricane in U.S. history (approx. $75 billion in insured losses) and the third deadliest in U.S. history (over 1300 killed). Our thoughts are with those victimized by that historic storm on this day.
Perhaps the statistic regarding casualties is more amazing...particularly in this day and age of radar and satellite technology. Neither existed at the time of the nation's worst natural disaster--the 1900 Galveston, TX hurricane--where over 8000 perished, or in 1928, when nearly 2000 lives were lost during the "Lake Okechobee" hurricane.
Regarding Katrina, the misfortune it brought to the Gulf on the morning of August 29th was about to become our good fortune, in a sense. The summer of '05 was quite dry in these parts, with much of Kentucky flirting with moderate to, at times, severe drought conditions. Remnants of Hurricane Cindy in June, as well as those of Dennis in July, delivered temporary relief to our region. However, the end of July through early August saw our rainfall deficit turn increasingly larger, with few significant storm systems affecting the area. It took Katrina to instigate changes in our hot, dry pattern toward summer's conclusion.
On August 28th, a frontal system stalled out over southern Kentucky, almost waiting for Katrina to come ashore to our south. This kept numerous showers and thunderstorms over the area late Sunday (the 28th) into Monday (the 29th). Then late Monday night into Tuesday (the 30th), Katrina's remnants came northward through central Kentucky, bringing heavy, tropical downpours along with gusty winds. It's interesting to note that on the afternoon of the 29th, Louisville's National Weather Service issued an "Inland Tropical Storm Watch" for a portion of South-Central Kentucky closest to the Tennessee border. That's the first known instance of such a statement being issued for our area!! More importantly, though, were the drought-busting rains that Katrina's remnants produced: Over 3" in Bowling Green on the morning of the 30th. Three-day rainfall totals were even more impressive to our west, with 8-11" falling over parts of Christian and Todd Counties. This was too much rain too soon, however, and sadly, it was blamed for one drowing death in Hopkinsville.
Other tropical systems have gotten us out of "debt", so to speak, in years past. Isidore from September 2002 is a prime example. This was a storm that wreaked havoc on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula as a category 3 hurricane before arriving in Louisiana in a weakened state--a tropical storm--days later. As it moved northward into Kentucky, its remnants dumped heavy rains to the tune of 4.82" for Bowling Green on 9/26 through 9/27/02. This essentially ended what had been a moderate drought for central Kentucky, signaling the return of a wet pattern that would last through the end of that year. In fact, 2002 marked the first time Bowling Green ended a year with above average rainfall since 1997.
On the flip side of the coin is 1979. South-Central Kentucky was right in the line of fire with two tropical systems that summer. The first of which was the remnants of Hurricane Bob in early July, but the second and by far most prolific rain producer for us, was Hurricane Frederic. This classic storm slammed into southern Alabama near Mobile on the night of September 12th as a category 4 hurricane. It then curved northward into the Tennessee Valley on the morning of the 13th before veering east toward the Mid-Atlantic states. Frederic's remnants were still well in tact as they reached our area, and the result was a wind-driven gullywasher on the afternoon and evening of the 13th. A whopping 6.02" of rain fell in Bowling Green, which is our city's second highest one-day rainfall total in history. And it wasn't exactly welcome rain, either. When 1979 ended, we had amassed a rainfall surplus of over 17"!! Here's betting it was a BANNER year for blue mold on our state's tobacco!
Other infamous hurricanes also left their calling card in our area in some way, shape, or form in years past. They include remnants of Hurricane Camille (produced 1.17" in Bowling Green on 8/21/69) and Hurricane Audrey (1.28" on 6/28/57). Camille's rains were needed: We were tinkering with a moderate drought in the summer of 1969.
So there you have it: The good, the bad, and the ugly of tropical cyclones and their impacts. They may be well known for the destruction they cause for the coast, but more times than not, they usually do us big favors when beneficial rains are needed.
Have a good week,
Bowling Green's Highest Dew Point
I always enjoy getting e-mails from you, the viewers, regarding weather trends here in South-Central Kentucky. Sometimes I can answer them almost immediately, but others require a little research. Such was the case with today's topic.
A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a Bowling Green viewer who stated that, in her observations, it seemed the dew point ( the temperature at which the air must be cooled to for saturation to take place--also a gauge for atmospheric moisture) was getting progressively higher in Kentucky during recent summers. For example, the air temperature at noon on 7/11/06 was 82 degrees, while the dew point was 77 with a relative humidity of 84%. She wondered if the reason for higher dew point observations could be traced back to better measuring equipment, or if we were just simply getting "juicier".
That's a valid question, for certain. After sifting through some local data, I finally stumbled upon some interesting findings regarding some extremely high dew point readings in this part of the world. One thing I should point out: Reliable daily observations for hourly dew points only date back to 1993 for Bowling Green. Having said that, we have experienced dew points higher than 77 prior to this year, and there's one day in particular that takes the cake for possibly the most humid ever in South-Central Kentucky.
August 18, 1995 started out rather overcast, with light rain showers reported at the Bowling Green airport at 11am. Then the clouds parted with some sunshine returning by early afternoon. This quickly warmed temperatures into the 90s, making for a steamy afternoon. But adding insult to injury on an already hot day were some remarkably high dew point values. Consider this: At 2:00 that afternoon, the temperature read 93 with a dew point of 81! This combination yielded a heat index of 115...the highest ever observed in Bowling Green. Now that's uncomfortable!!! The dew point never dropped lower than 75 that entire day, staying in the upper 70s much of the afternoon into the evening. Now of course, it's conceivable that other days in the past may have been just as humid, and it's not out of the realm that higher dew points into the lower 80s may have occured on other occasions here. But it would be tough to top 8/18/95 in terms of the heat/humidity combination and those oppressive dew points.
Contrast the above situation to that of September 5, 1999 (our last 100 degree day, as mentioned in the last posting). At 3pm and again at 4pm that day, the observed temperature was a sizzling 99 degrees, but the dew point was a mere 50 degrees. Thus, the relative humidities were VERY LOW that afternoon (some of you may recall we were mired in a severe drought at the time), and the heat index was actually lower than the air temperature (it only topped out at 96). I should note that's indeed possible since, in this case, perspiration cools the body more effectively thanks to a faster rate of evaporation due to the drier air.
You know, I have friends who pick on me for my "obsession" with dew points, but it's true: They have EVERYTHING to do with how it feels outside on a summer afternoon. Hence the old saying, "If it's not the heat, it's the humidity!"
One more note: Next week marks the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's Gulf coast landfall. She delivered misfortune for the Gulf, but good fortune for our area in a sense. We'll discuss that further here next week.
History of "Heat"!
Hello and thanks for stopping by! If you've been a faithful visitor of our weather page over the last couple of years or so, you might recall the title of this blog. Well, after a long "hiatus", I'm glad to say the "history lesson" has been resurrected and will hopefully be even more informative for your reading pleasure this second go-round.
Just like the blog of old, my "history lesson" will contain some interesting facts about past weather in South-Central Kentucky. But I'll also throw in some national stuff, too, as well as columns aimed at shedding some perspective on historical events as they may relate to current weather. For example, if we receive an 8" snow this coming January (and, by the way, I'm NOT saying that will happen!!), we might dig back into the annals and archives to find out more about other major snows in Bowling Green that just might bring back some memories for some of you.
That being said, much has been made of the recent heat wave that has gripped much of the lower 48, including the Blue Grass state. It has been confirmed that this past July was the nation's 2nd hottest in recorded history. According to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, the average temperature for the contiguous states was 77.2 degrees, just .3 shy of July 1936, which still stands at the nation's hottest. Triple digit heat invaded much of the central U.S. last month, though much of the Blue Grass state was spared the brunt of the highest heat.
Interestingly, 100 degree weather in Bowling Green has been scarce in the new millennium. Did you know our last official 100 degree day happened back on September 5, 1999? It's true! Despite a few close calls (including Thursday's 99 degree high), we've gone an amazing seven years since hitting the century mark, our longest such streak since going 11 years without a 100-degree day from the summer of 1966 to the summer of 1977. On July 14, 1966, the high in Bowling Green was 102, and it took us until July 8, 1977 to see the mercury crack 100 degrees again. Pretty remarkable!
On the flip side of that coin, some of our hottest years included numerous days of triple digit heat (and, by the way, we're talking actual temperatures here, NOT heat indices). In 1980, Bowling Green sizzled with NINE days of 100 degree weather in July and August. The mercury topped out at 100 or above on six occasions in 1983 and again in 1999.
Speaking of 1999, the final three days of July that year saw the thermometer reach the century mark, our longest such streak in recent years. What's the longest? Well, two years share that dubious honor...those being 1930 and 1934. Seven straight days--August 2nd to August 8th, 1930--featured 100 degree weather (including 110 on the 8th), with a similar streak recorded from July 21st-27th, 1934. It's worthy of noting that those years, along with 1936, were part of the infamous Great Depression AND the "Dust Bowl" era. Air conditioning was a luxury that few possessed back then. Just thinking of that makes those years seem even hotter!!
Allright, that concludes our lesson for this time. Here's hoping we go another year before reaching 100 degrees again!